Hello again, and welcome to those who’ve just signed up. Here’s what’s been happening.
No matter where you live in the world, it’s pretty likely that there’s some kind of pest to trouble your existence. In the UK they tend to be small and annoying – mice, earwigs, ants and all that kind of thing – though occasionally they’re a bit larger and a bit more destructive. We had a squirrel set up home in our eaves once, but fortunately it didn’t make it into the loft and we were able to get it out and fix the flashings before it did any real damage. Overseas, of course, pests can be a lot more dangerous. Bill Bryson waxes rhapsodic in his book Down Under about the huge variety of lethal spiders, feral cats and rampaging camels to be found in Australia. Those of you living elsewhere will no doubt have your own particular pet hate to cope with.
Here in India, monkeys seem to be the biggest nuisance. There’s scarcely a month that goes by without some reference to a “monkey menace” in the papers. One recent report in the Hindustan Times claimed that “An estimated 5-10 thousand simian rascals are on the loose in Delhi”. Remedies are few – pet langurs employed to chase the monkeys away, or traps baited with bananas. And, although monkeys are revered by many as deities, the damage and even injury they can cause is immense. If bitten, you’re advised to wash the cut, get a tetanus shot, and embark on a full six-shot course of rabies vaccine which takes up to three months to administer.
(If you’d like to read more about monkeys in Delhi, try this link: Monkey Business
On the other hand, there are plenty of human pests too. Corruption is commonly seen to be widespread in India – it came 71st out of 102 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index – the lower the ranking, the more corrupt – for 2002. (The UK came 10th, if you’re interested. Finland was first.) Public servants who get caught taking bribes are suspended from their jobs and get little help from anyone. But it now seems that some of them at least – a bunch of motor vehicle inspectors – are getting together in a kind of self-help co-operative to support those being hassled by the Anti-Corruption Bureau. Over the last few months, inspectors have been found possessing assets worth between £80,000 and over £130,000 – way beyond what they could have earned from their jobs.
It’s tempting to dismiss corrupt civil servants as a plague on society who ought to be banged up and the key thrown away. But three things at least are worth bearing in mind. One is that many societies have a long-standing tradition of offering small gifts and favours as a core part of conducting business – including within government. The second is that public servants in many countries are paid appallingly badly (senior executives in some of India’s biggest public sector companies receive roughly the same as some of the unskilled workers in the best-paying equivalent private sector companies). The third is that foreign companies are often only too willing to pay bribes if it means beating a rival company to a lucrative contract. Another Transparency International index, the Bribe Payers Survey 2002, sampled opinions from businesses and commercial organisations in 15 leading countries involved in trade and investment with multinational companies from 21 countries. UK companies were perceived to have got slightly worse (ie more likely to bribe) since 1999 and came eighth overall out of the 21 – again, the lower the ranking the more likely to bribe. Interestingly, the UK government was identified as one of the top three most likely to use other unfair means to gain business advantages, beaten only by France and (by over half of respondents) the US.
Till next time…
British Expat Magazine
“The accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference.”
– Bess Myerson (b. 1924, US government official and columnist)
A woman was having a passionate affair with an inspector from a pest control company. One afternoon they were carrying on in the bedroom when her husband came home unexpectedly.
“Quick,” said the woman to her lover, “into the wardrobe!”
She pushed him into the wardrobe stark naked. The husband, however, became suspicious and after a search of the bedroom discovered the man in the wardrobe.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“I’m an inspector from Bugs-B-Gone.”
“What are you doing in there?”
“I’m investigating a complaint of an infestation of moths.”
“And where are your clothes?” asked the husband.
The man looked down at himself and said, “Those little b*stards.”