India, Day Paying off the Cops?

Our last night in India was a little wild. We skipped the temples and sightseeing for a night out on the town. When you have to board a 21 hour flight the next day, you really don’t feel much like sleeping.

So out we go. To a bar at the country club where stories were exchanged and a bottle of whiskey passed around. It was a good time spent amongst new friends.

A few of them told arrest stories—because don’t we all love to share our lowest moments once the alcohol gets flowing? Genuinely, there’s something about the spirits that makes us all a little more honest. Like culture, borders, and everything else is eliminated, and we become just people, sharing intimate details of our lives.

And the details were enlightening. Unusual. A bit sad, to tell the truth.

I heard some stories about beatings in the jail. About being unrecognizable when coming out. About the crime boss who allows himself to get arrested every six months, just to keep the image of a functional police force up and running. I’m not saying this is everywhere in India, because I do not know…but it is here. This crime lord has his own dorm. His own room and bed he sleeps in when the time comes for him to submit and bite the bullet. When the time comes for him to pay for the smallest fraction of his crimes.

There’s something called the airplane, I have learned. When they take batons, coat them in lime and cumin and chili powder…I’ll let your imagination do the rest but just know it is a punishment more painful than any you can imagine bearing. But this is only if you cannot pay them off.

Good thing we could.

A guy from the bar we had been speaking with was pulled over forty feet from the entrance of the bar. We pulled up behind him in our Uber—he approached our car and asked for 1,000 rupees (US equivalent $15.00) to pay off the cop.

To pay off the cop.

For drunk driving.

The cop pocketed the money and let him back into his car. “Just wire me the rest tomorrow,” he said. “Or, if you don’t, I’m sure I’ll catch you again soon.”

Apparently this cop recognized the car. He had recognized the car because he had pulled this kid over a dozen times. Letting him go each one, because it lined his pocket. And for $15.00 US dollars, he let him get back in his car and drive the rest of the way home. Drunk.

“I know him,” one cop said to the next. “Give him back his key.”

For $15.00 US dollars.

Culture is culture and people do as they will—no country is any different. People are manipulative anywhere you go. They will bribe and they will cheat because it is the lesser side of human nature that comes easier than being good. This is not dependent upon boundaries or culture.

However, I think, perhaps, that watching it play before my eyes was just a bit more shocking. What you’ve seen is always so far different than the stories that you’ve heard.

And so, I will reiterate the point in my original blogs. Unapologetically I will reiterate this point. The culture of India is glorious. The people are stunning. They are pressed and they are busy but they are mostly kind. They are gentle and religious and work hard towards their goals of something better.

But the government? I hold to the truth that they have not done well by their own people. The top grossing economy of the world, and yet officers are paid so little that they count on payoffs to balance out their salaries. They let drunk people drive home because it puts some extra money in their pocket (if you have not driven on the roads in India, you cannot understand how much potential this carries for a very dangerous accident to occur).

Everyone in the bar that night had a story like this. Every last person shared a jail story. And these were good kids. College educated. Some of them were studying law others worked in big software companies others lived in foreign countries but were in town to visit family. Every single one of them had a story just like this.

And so yes, it makes me sad. It makes me sad for a culture so beautiful, that it is encumbered by a failed system. Say what you would like about my bias as an American citizen, but some things I think are wrong…in spite of culture, of religion, of boundaries or borders or anything else. Whether it happens here in my own country or somewhere else entirely…the government is meant to protect its own. Not profit off of them.

27 thoughts on “India, Day Paying off the Cops?

    1. Completely. I think, though, that while the officers certainly are accountable, they work for a system that permits it. I blame an governmental organization that permits this behavior to continue, much more than I blame the individual. It’s why we need laws right? People will so often do what they can get away with. I think that’s a sad reality everywhere. Not everyone wants to be better.

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          1. Coyote from Orion

            Some of us have conscientiously objected and paid the price in society for doing so. For some of us sacrificing to do the right thing is why we are here…. preferable to looking in the mirror each day and seeing a coward who goes along with what the rest do.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. It was so unusual. I was actually reading an article about a US city that pays their cops minimum wage–they have a turnover rate of over 50%. It starts at the top, and trickles down. But yes, I can only imagine what other stories there are.

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  1. Makes for sad and thoughtful reading. When we gained our independence from Britain (my grandfather was actually a British policeman) one of the better things we did was to establish a new (unarmed) police force who are called ‘Guardians of the peace’ (in Gaelic ‘Garda Siochana’). It was a different emphasis. Like police forces all round the world we do not pay them enough. Peace on your new travels. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve found that a lot of these conflicts have stemmed from nations that are newly (as in the last hundred years or so) dependent from Britain. India is still developing. So much so. And they are certainly trying to figure out their place, having been conquered by other nations for so long.
      I do, however, love the idea of guardians of the peace. That’s a beautiful concept. But yes, as you say, not paying them enough for such a challenging job is a shame.
      Thank you for your insight and your story. Be well. 🙏🏼💕

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    1. Yes, certainly, but I think that people should have a government that they can trust. I’d be surprised if there were many citizens who argued differently (aside from the ones profiting from it, but their votes are null anyway, if You ask me).

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  2. Shayleene great post once again… !! Yes, being from India and close to place you were in (Kerala) I can confirm what you heard is true. See, India after the independence took a wrong turn. The governments totally manipulated people. Suddenly politics became biggest business and money making avenue. Unfortunately, it went on for a long time. Politicians were able to keep the people at bay because they had the corrupt powers. You might be surprised to know we Indians did not have a unique identifying number for citizens like SSN in the US. So basically any murderer could walk into a state and get a clean record there. There was no tracking mechanism because the politicians needed such facilities. People could get anything using pseudo names and identities. Only since about 3 to 4 years, some massive effort is done to create a trackable database. Even about this activity, there has been a lot of cry in the name of privacy bullshit. But things are changing now, probably your next visit here you might see different India. Systems are being enforced and people are getting notices and people are going to jails (genuinely) 😀 There was a time for everything one had to bribe, but not anymore. But people with money always find a faster way. So its basket of mixed fruits. After living in the US I moved back to India… with US-born kids etc, it was a shocker but I think I have been able to manage. After all, it’s my country right?
    I really liked the way you sincerely put forward the experience and perception. A better India welcomes you next time! Cheers!

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    1. I cannot wait. I know it’s improving. I mean, so many parts of the country are still pretty recently dependent from Britain—what an identity crisis the world threw you guys into. Thank you for your history and story. It’s really great insight for me.
      I look forward to seeing India blossom into everything it can be. Progress is slow, and growing is messy. But you guys are a rich and driven people. Thank you again. 💕

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      1. Thanks Shayleneene for your kind words. Current government at least looks focused on curbing the corruption, But since we have been grown with it, the changes will be slow and add to that, we are a huge population. But we will get there! BTW, Did you skip Goa? Generally, that’s the number one location for foreigners?

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    2. Great incite to your country, thanks for sharing. I can only imagine the difference you must have felt when moving back to your home country and having your children experience that change for the first time. I am glad to hear that change is underway. It is needed, although that could be said for most everywhere to some degree.

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      1. Thank you for your comment. Yes, the move back was somewhat unplanned, my colleagues in US warned me! But it all went well as my wife was very supportive. About the kids, they adjust better than the elders. We people keep on cribbing for each and every little thing. Whereas kids embrace changes every quick and adapt, that’s what happened to my kids. India is a diverse place as long as you make a point to keep travelling and keep your life busy kids don’t get bored. That’s what I do. Looks like you guys also into travelling mode.. that great!! do it when you are young! Cheers!

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  3. This is shocking. We didn’t experience this, fortunately but can definitely believe that this could happen. Scary to think that this type of payoff is allowing dangerous people to be dangerous. Not a fair cost for the potential lives, and not enough incentive to promote different behavior. We agree that there are some very amazing people in a very difficult place.

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