Our correspondent learns first-hand the mechanics of petty bribery in India. Meanwhile, corruption fighter Anna Hazare called off his hunger strike today.
In the United States, roadblocks are a common way to check for drivers who have had one too many drinks on New Years, but for police in Delhi, these roadblocks often translate into "how much will they pay to get out of this?"
And if the fight over the current anticorruption bill in Parliament and the recent hunger strike by activist Anna Hazare are any indicators, the situation is not likely to improve any time soon without the help of hundreds of thousands of Indians pushing back against the system of bribery where they can.
Mr. Hazare had inspired millions of Indians to protest against corruption this summer, and began a three-day hunger strike this week to press for tougher action against corruption in the country's bureaucracy. His fast aligned with the Indian Parliament negotiating an antigraft bill that would set up an ombudsman's office to investigate embezzling, influence peddling, and other forms of official theft.
However, both the hunger strike and bill have fallen short of their objectives. After a high fever and poor crowd turn out, Hazare called off it off a day early. A compromise bill was approved by Parliament’s lower house Tuesday, and is likely to pass the upper house Wednesday. If it does, it could establish an independent body at the central and state government levels to investigate charges of corruption.
But Hazare and other opposition groups say the bill is weak, and will do little to truly tackle the country’s corruption. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the agency, which is responsible for monitoring this bill, will not itself become corrupt.