Bangladesh police smile, don't ask for bribes

 
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DHAKA, Mar 12 (Reuters) Bangladesh's wholesale anti-graft campaign has swept through the capital's police force, which now offers friendly, bribe-free services to residents wanting crimes and rights violations investigated.

In the past, many Dhaka residents visited police stations only as a last resort. Officers would only help if a bribe was paid, usually through a broker.

Now the brokers are gone and in their place are service desks staffed by friendly police who record complaints and advise residents what to do next, Naeem Ahmed, chief of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told Reuters.

''We want to see that the people have some confidence in police and so I have asked my officers to act accordingly,'' Naeem said.

The service comes after a national army-led drive to cleanse politics and the government of corruption to pave way for a free-and-fair election.

Every police station in the city of 10 million will have a service desk, Naeem said.

Police in the impoverished South Asian country were largely blamed for corruption for which the Paris-based global crime watch-dog Transparency International ranked Bangladesh the most corrupt country for four years in a row since 2000.

''I agree with the allegations, it's not a secret. But from now on you will see a different police. We will change the hundred-year old image,'' Naeem said, who pledged any negligence of duty would be punished.

Naeem was appointed police chief by the interim government headed by former central bank chief Fakhruddin Ahmed.

Assisted by a panel of advisers, Fakhruddin is trying to organise a free and credible poll as soon possible, but refuses to announce a date immediately.

After introduction of the service desk, people are now thronging police stations seeking help on a variety of grievances, some of which are not the purview of police.

''I am here to seek police help and advice because I am unable to admit my son to a school of my choice,'' resident Salina Begum told Reuters at a Dhaka police station over the weekend.

''I explained everything and they (police) have assured to investigate the matter immediately,'' said Salina.

''The school authority has asked for a huge sum of money to enroll my child,'' she said, without naming the school.

REUTERS SB BST1210

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