The Hubli Hustle – in which the long arm of the Law reaches out and picks my pocket again!

Visiting the small rural town of Hubli in Northern Karnataka is proving expensive for me.

The last time I came through here 3 months ago I was fined Rs300 by an over-zealous cop for driving my vehicle without a document I had no idea I needed (see here)
Hubli despite it’s comparatively diminutive size, seems to have more traffic cops than the whole of Bangalore. They are on every corner and seem to have a vendetta for anyone driving in from other areas. Meanwhile the locals blatantly flout every traffic law and regulation with impunity.
So 3 months later I have returned, stopping for lunch on my way up to Mumbai. I pulled off the highway and spent the next 5 minutes crawling along behind a tractor in 1st gear as it swerved from side to side trying to avoid potholes and doing its best to dislodge the population of a small village perched all over it.
Frustration at this extremely slow progress getting the better of me I spotted a gap in traffic, pulled out and accelerated at warp speed finally getting out of 1st gear and changing up into 2nd.
Suddenly a traffic cop ran out from behind a tree and stood in the middle of the road pointing at me. Bearing in mind the last time the cops shook me down in this town, I contemplated ignoring him and continuing on my journey. But not wishing to sully the glistening paintwork of my beautiful car with the blood and bodily fluids of a policeman I decided it might be better for all concerned if I stopped.
“Why have you stopped me” I asked
“Overspeeding” he replied using a term peculiar to India.
To me one is either speeding or not speeding, so I am not sure where overspeeding fits in.
“What is the speed limit?” I asked
“40”
“Where is the sign?”
“No sign”
What speed was I doing? I asked
“Over 40” came the reply. “Come with me”
Reluctantly I got out and followed the cop to where 3 of his colleagues had set up camp in the shade of a tree with a radar gun on a tripod.
The senior-most police officer announced in a haughty manner befitting of a Maharajah of old, “You were driving very fast”
“Really? How fast?” I asked
“74” he replied
In second gear! On a severely potholed road! Wow. I was amazed for a second or two but suspecting that my diesel SUV had not miraculously transformed into a Ferrari overnight, I questioned his findings.
Telling me to look at the radar gun to see my speed, I wandered over and read the display.
“It says 30” I told him.
“That’s someone else’s speed.”
“Where is mine”
“It’s deleted. But you were driving so far above the limit we are booking you for reckless and dangerous driving” he told me, thereby increasing the fine amount by 30% in one fell swoop.
Well I had a good run, I thought to myself. Seven years of being the only safe and sensible driver left in India was a pretty good effort, but I have finally succumbed. I think it’s called assimilation by osmosis.
I argued a bit more trying in vain to retain my unblemished status but when you argue with a donkey it is never likely to see your point of view.
I paid up, retrieved my license and returned to my “Ferrari”, head hanging in shame and with a noticeably lighter wallet.
An hour later lunch completed I headed out of town. Rounding a corner another policeman sprang out in front of me. A barrage of expletives echoed around inside the car, not just from me but also from the usually dulcet toned Boss sitting beside me. Barely restraining myself from running him down I pulled over and dispensing with all niceties demanded an explanation as to why he had the temerity to pull me over.
“Do you have a license?” he asked, with one eye on the traffic.
“Yes”
“Insurance”
“Yes”
He jumped out in front of another car with outstation number plates and waved it over in front of me, ignoring all the local vehicles driving past.
Returning to my window he asked:
“Emissions Certificate?”
“I have everything! A marriage certificate also! Do you want to see that? Why the hell do you keep stopping me? I was stopped an hour ago!”
“Where?” he asked
“On the Bangalore Rd” I told him
“Where are you going now?”
“Bombay”
“OK, happy journey” he wished me, shaking my hand and waving me on, anxious to attend to his next, hopefully less argumentative victim.

Crime and Punishment – In which the Long Arm of the Law relieves me of some hard earned cash!

The drive up from Bangalore to Mumbai was pretty uneventful. The weather was good and the countryside lush and green from the Monsoon rains.
We did come across 3 accidents that had happened minutes before we arrived, enough time for a huge crowd of villagers to surround the upturned vehicle, blocking two of the 3 lanes, but not late enough for the ambulance and police to arrive. In all 3 instances it must have been driver fatigue as the roads were straight and the vehicles had just seemed to veer off the road into the barrier or into the ditch. Because of India’s population, whatever happens to you, there will always be a crowd within minutes!
We drove into the town of Hubli about 400kms from Bangalore to find a place for lunch. Rounding one corner, a traffic policeman stepped out in front of me, pointed at me, and then pointed at the side of the road, making his intentions clear.
Irritated because I had done nothing wrong I half-heartedly pulled over making sure I still blocked traffic in the hope that the cacophony of horns to follow would persuade him to wave me on. It didn’t.
I wound down the window, and he asked “Driver’s License”
“Why?” I asked, “What have I done wrong?”
“Vehicle checking” came the reply.
“Why aren’t you stopping others?” as vehicle after vehicle drove past. “You only stopped us because we have an outstation number plate”
“Stopping everyone” he said and pointed to 3 other cars pulled over in front of us, all with out-station number plates.
Frustrated but realizing arguing would get me nowhere, I handed over my license.

To our left, a senior cop lent on his parked motorcycle, eyes shielded with mirrored Ray-Bans, arms folded, too senior to get his hands dirty shaking down the public, but no doubt busy mentally calculating how many plots of land he could buy back in his village with this month’s takings.
Handing back my license, the cop asked for my insurance. I handed it over; he gave it a cursory glance, and then asked for my registration documents, which I duly presented. “Anything else?” I asked as he handed back the docs.
“Emission certificate”
Damn! The one thing I didn’t have and was not even sure I needed as my car is not that old.
“This car is only 3 years old and doesn’t need one” I replied, as an ancient bus rumbled past, spewing out clouds of thick black smoke.
“Emission Certificate” He demanded again.
Realizing that this was not an argument I would win I admitted to not having one.
“Rs600 fine” he replied and then waited, hoping that I would try and bargain him down to a lesser “un-official” fine. Not wishing to contribute to his retirement fund, I told him ok and insisted on a ticket. He started typing into his Blackberry, pressed a button on the wireless printer attached to his belt and printed out a ticket. I examined it carefully, checking the details were correct and handed over the money.
Pulling out into the flow of traffic I drove off behind a two wheeler almost hidden by the clouds of blue smoke coming out of it’s exhaust.
Half a kilometer later another policeman stepped out in front of me, this time I pretended not to see him, although not convincingly as I had to swerve to avoid hitting him, and carried on.
Speaking to a Rickshaw Driver later, he told me that it was the end of the month and the cops had to make up their quotas, official and unofficial.
I now have an Emission certificate, at the cost of Rs100. Apparently one is needed after a vehicle is two years old and it needs to be renewed every 6 months. Judging by the air-quality in the city though, I must be one of the few who actually has one!