Report From India

indian streetUNDER THE TABLE

By Guy Burns in India

This is my last despatch from Gokarna India.

It’s time to leave — the weather is starting to get really hot; 36 daytime and 27 at nights, with high humidity.

Meanwhile, I’ve been asked about bribery and corruption and my experiences of this in India.

From my perspective, bribery is not really evident.

I can undertake go travelling without  needing to grease anyone’s palm.

Whether I’m buying a train ticket, visiting a temple, getting a room for the night, eating at the local eatery I don’t have to bribe; there’s no pressure to slip money under the table.

But, I will be paying higher prices than the locals do, but not always, and not normally excessively so.

For visitors, the best way to avoid excessive prices is to ask locals who are not involved in the activity you wish to engage; ‘how much should it cost to get a rickshaw from to …’

On the other hand, after talking with locals you soon realise that bribery and corruption are a way of life at all levels of society in India.

The bulk of this corruption occurs when dealing with agents of the State.

And, people tell me, the worst corruption occurs with the police.

Most interaction with police can be resolved with a bribe — especially traffic offenses, vehicle accidents and passport verifications.

Even serious incidents of assault, murder and rape can involve bribery to police, but these are more difficult, and expensive to ‘resolve’.

I personally observed locals refusing to call the police when a dead body was washed up onto the beach.

Eventually, a foreigner had to ring, against the strong objections of the local café owner.

Later, I could see why he was reluctan. I watched the police arrive and spend a whole afternoon at the closest local café, eating food, and drinking coffee and tea, while investigating the drowning.

When they’d finished, they left without paying. I was told of a local man being locked up for two days after reporting a drowning and only being released after payment of a bribe.

On the political front, Indians have been voting in the world’s biggest election, which will take five weeks to complete.indians vote

Several people told me political parties were very active, ‘buying’ votes by going to towns and villages, speaking with the village elders and family heads — then offering money based on the number of votes the community leaders could muster.

At a higher level, corruption occurred this year with the purchase of military equipment, coal-block allocations, cricket match-fixing, politician ‘buying’—the list is almost endless and a tragic reflection of life in India/Asia. For further information read:

But, don’t let this negative aspect of life in India put you off. Most tourists are unaffected by bribery and corruption, and thoroughly enjoy the place.

Well, I certainly have.

And, as I mentioned before, this is my last report from India—for a while anyway.

My next update will be from the rural hinterlands of Bavaria.