Assam happens to be the unfortute state where mafias and syndicates flourish to extort money from hard working people. And the reason they get a free run is because wherever they operate, they keep the local cops happy. Over long years, the public perception has steadily grown of a large section of corrupt policemen allowing all sorts of lawbreaking and crimil activities, so long as they regularly get their protection money. Sometimes though, there is an outburst and things get out of hand, as it did in Guwahati recently. Irate transport workers and local people in Betkuchi area of the city laid siege to NH 37 on Tuesday, clashing with policemen and giving a horrendous time to stranded commuters. The protests erupted after two policemen ordered a tanker driver onto their patrol vehicle near the IOC termil alongside ISBT, and some time afterwards allegedly dumped the driver from their moving vehicle onto the highway. On seeing his injuries, nearly two hundred tanker-truck drivers and helpers fought a pitched battle with a posse of cops. The transport workers alleged that cops regularly extort money for parking at the service road along the highway near the IOC termil. Since the victimized driver was uble to shell out a couple of thousand rupees, he was ruthlessly pushed out of the speeding police vehicle. Denying the charge, the Gorchuk police has pointed out that trucks and tankers regularly park at no-parking zones near the ISBT-Balaji temple area, and are therefore fined for the offence. As for the injured driver, the police claimed that he ‘jumped’ after he was picked up. With allegations flying thick and fast from both sides, the truth as usual, lies somewhere in the middle. It is known that transporters create a nuisance by parking wherever they please along NH 37. The IOC termil near Betkuchi is a problem area where hundreds of trucks and tankers arrive every day, but the parking area can accommodate only a few dozen. So such heavy vehicles parked further along are ripe pickings for flying police squads. For Guwahati denizens, it is an everyday sight to see cops giving hot chase at unearthly hours to heavy vehicles loaded with all sorts of commodities. There may be load limits and entry timings into the city, but enforcing rules is not what such cops on the beat are after. They want their ‘hafta’, pure and simple; crimils can run amok but woe betide anyone (offender or otherwise) who does not pay up. There are instances galore of errant cops beating up non-payers. The Guwahati police authority has begun probing the latest incident at Betkuchi. But unless it institutes a reliable mechanism on getting feedback from victimized people and keeping tabs on its own black sheep, its frequent attempts at image makeover will not yield much fruit.