14.02.2011 23 °C
India is a country with a long tradition of the rule of law. There are laws governing even the most mundane activities and we read signs everywhere declaring that this or that is an offence. But, without enforcement, laws aren't worth the parchment they're printed on. At least 60% of Indian bureaucrats are known to be corrupt, (together with many policemen, politicians and judges), and the other 40% are suspect. Everyone accepts bribery as the normal way of doing business - so who needs laws? We've previously mentioned the hundreds, (probably thousands), of illegally built condominium towers, and the 137,000 cellphone towers thrown up without approvals. But many existing buildings should be condemned as structurally unsound, (at least two have collapsed while we've been here). This building in Mumbai was condemned two years ago, yet is still fully occupied...
and all construction workers should be off the job immediately for total lack of safety equipment and for working in dangerous conditions. We see bare-headed workers in flip-flops everywhere...
Most roads should be declared unsuitable for motor vehicles and all sidewalks should have signs warning pedestrians to use them at their own peril.
Almost every vehicle is a contestant for the Guinness Book of Records, (current records observed by us shown in brackets) i.e.: How many people can you ...a) Cram into a tuk-tuk (14)... b) Get on a motorbike (6)... c) Carry on the roof of a bus (25)... d)Pile into a farm trailer (55)...e) Pull behind a camel (20)...f)Pedal in a tricycle rickshaw (4 adults or 6 kids).
Trucks and trailers are usually absurdly overloaded - often to the point of breaking the suspension, axles or gearbox, (all we can say is that you would never believe it without seeing it yourself), while horses, camels, donkeys, oxen, elephants, and even men and women, are forced to carry loads well beyond the point of cruelty.
Trains and planes have special categories. Sixty-thousand job applicants recently went to a town in north India to apply for a handful of civil service jobs. When they were turned away they swarmed onto the tops and sides of the trains. Amazingly - only 23 were killed. As for planes...fifty nine thousand people were denied boarding last year because of overbooking, while hundreds of people were flown home as standing passengers on overcrowded flights returning from the Haj.
Anarchy rules the roads here: Lane markings, stop lines and pedestrian crossings are a complete waste of paint; traffic lights are only obeyed if backed up by a policeman; roundabouts are navigated either clockwise or anticlockwise dependent upon the fastest route to the driver's desired exit; on dual carriageways slow vehicles always hog the centre lane, while faster vehicles overtake on the inside or simply barrel down the opposite carriageway into the path of oncoming vehicles. Few cars, even ones licensed for carrying tourists, have seat belts for passengers, while drivers quickly put their's on if they spot a police check. It is common to see families of five and even six on a single motorbike, and, even though roadside vendors sell crash helmets for as little as two dollars, very few people wear them - and then only the driver. Many vehicles, especially buses and tuk-tuks, have no rear lights. More than 125,000 people die in Indian road accidents each year, but this figure doesn't include the great majority of casualties who die of their injuries later at home or in hospital.
As for electrical wiring... take a look...
In 1999 while touring a factory in Edinburgh, Prince Philip spotted a badly installed electrical box and got a lot of flack for saying, "It must have been put in by an Indian." Having seen the dire state of Indian electrical installations we can honestly say that Phil knew of what he spoke.