Hawkers 'book' slots on this avenue of income for cops

Racket of booksellers, extortionists, police flourishes on Avenue Road
Last Updated : 02 November 2014, 18:16 IST
Last Updated : 02 November 2014, 18:16 IST

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It’s a constant avenue for that extra income for the men in khaki. It’s a big mafia out there of extortionists who act as facilitators of graft that the police cannot take directly, given their status as keepers of the law.

The top brass in the police department admit that there’s a nexus between Avenue Road’s hawkers, middlemen and the junior level staff in the department.

For starters, Avenue Road is a part of the Chickpet area and links K R Market with Mysore Bank Circle. It is home to garment and jewellery shops. More importantly, it is the place-to-go for those hunting for textbooks, made-easy guides, ready reckoners on competitive exams and books on all topics under the sun.

But then, this is a trade of the unorganised hawkers who sell their ware on the pavements of the bustling commercial lane of 1.1 km.

The “turnover” from the racket is a decent Rs 12 lakh a month, shared between the extortionists and “some select police personnel.” In turn, each hawker is allowed a hassle-free trade on a six-foot space of the footpath stretch.

The hawkers, say shopkeepers, have occupied the entire stretch, impacting their sales by blocking easy access. Tension is brewing between shopkeepers and hawkers, with the former wanting the latter to be evicted. The latter want to stay, for it’s a question of livelihood for them.

It is estimated that each hawker has to pay between Rs 150 and Rs 300 every day, depending on the size of the trade. A hawker who sells books says he finds his customers only on Avenue Road.

“Books on various exams have been available here for almost three decades. Students writing exams, aspirants for government jobs and civil services, those looking for general knowledge books, introductory books on topics from science to humanities, textbooks, guide books and supplementary textbooks all come to Avenue Road. If we have guaranteed sales, you pay a little to the middlemen and get on with business. This is better than searching for a new place where people may not come.”

Senior police officials do not disagree that there is a bribery racket and that even some police personnel may be receiving payoffs. Rajendra Kumar, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Chickpet, told Deccan Herald that the police had recently cracked down on eight extortionists.

“We are aware that junior police staff ask for a few rupees from shops and hawkers. I don’t want to support that, though it may be related to their economic status. But what worries us more is policemen who are in cahoots with middlemen. We act against extortionists whenever we get information. I have warned police personnel against taking bribes. If I find they do this, severe action will follow. Anyone willing to give information can come to me directly. In case of Avenue Road, we are aware that gangs operate. We nab them when we get evidence. If the media can help, I promise action.”

Published 02 November 2014, 18:16 IST

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