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The Dark Side of India

semi-overcast 30 °C

The mere mention of Madras, (founded by the British in 1639 and now called Chennai), conjured colourful images of exotic spices, scented tropical airs and memorable curries, but we saw the warning signs long before we hit the city itself. Smoke-belching steelworks, flame-throwing oil refineries, and acres of slums ringing stagnant, garbage filled swamps, greeted us as we arrived by train from Vijayawada. Judging by the magnificent Victorian railway station, and a few other colonial-era buildings, Madras used to be a gem of a city, but there is little that is colourful, sweetly scented or memorable here now. This is the Muruga Hindu Temple…
Impressive from a distance, it is garish and grubby up close. And it is girdled by streets of abandoned cars and garbage like this…
We think the sun is shining, but it could just be one of the yellowy flares from the oil refinery glowing through the morning smog. However, on the bright side, we are staying at a very interesting hotel where even the elevators are disguised as Hindu temples, and the marble-floored lobby is the size of an airport terminal…
We had planned to go to the sea today, until we learned from Sunday’s edition of ‘The Hindu’ that a survey by students had found 20,000 pieces of trash on the city’s beaches. This country is awash in garbage and the nearest riverbank or railway embankment seems to be the preferred dumping ground for most. It is, therefore, inevitable that most of it eventually winds its way to the ocean and washes up on someone’s shore. But there is a much darker side to India than the pollution and the trash – it is political and corporate corruption. Newspapers and TV news channels report daily on the latest scams and scandals – and they seem endless. The Commonwealth Games was a complete fiasco because most of the money was stolen by bent politicians and contractors and now, surprise-surprise, all the paperwork has been mysteriously ‘lost’ by the bureaucrats involved; a State premier gave huge amounts of government land to his relatives and friends and can’t be touched because he threatens to go public about other officials; twenty-six bank officials colluded to defraud the government of millions; a cadre of senior military officers built a luxury condo tower for themselves on land earmarked for widows of dead soldiers; the Telecom Minister gave sweetheart deals to his paymasters when divvying up the airwaves … and that’s just this week’s revelations. Arrests have been made, but don’t hold your breath for a quick resolution. The justice system here is so corrupt and moribund that it is estimated that it could take five-thousand years to clear the backlog of cases.

Posted by Hawkson 07:19 Archived in India

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The West often refer to nations like India as third world, but this is where we are headed if we continue to value greed and materialism above all else - minus, of course, the lovely temples.

by Janet

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