It was reported in the Guardian newspaper, yesterday, that two farmers, fed up with facing repeated demands to pay bribes, emptied three bags filled with snakes in a busy tax office in Basti, northern India.
The farmers, Hukkul Khan and Ramkul Ram, had been asking for tax records for their land in nearby Narharpur village, but tax officials allegedly withheld the files for weeks while demanding bribes. Although the snakes caused panic amongst the tax clerks and local villagers, no one was bitten or injured during the incident.
The almost daily requirement to pay small bribes to minor officials, policemen and even medical staff, has lead to widespread resentment in India. In the last year, a series of anti-corruption campaigns have raised public awareness of the issue and mobilised opposition to the practice of paying such bribes. In August, many thousands demonstrated in support of the creation of a new ombudsman with the power to investigate politicians and senior bureaucrats.
According to the Guardian, some Indian states have also been posting online videos to air the stories of victims of bribery, in which they name corrupt officials. The development minister of northeastern state Bihar, Nitish Mishra, said:
“We feel the fear of their names going public in social networking sites, resulting in social embarrassment, will obviously force the ‘corrupt’ officials not to seek bribes from the common villages.”
However, local people in Bihar claim that the campaign will have little impact on corruption, as only a small section of the population have access to internet facilities.