A fender bender and compromise

Day before yesterday, I was driving back home from work. At the Silk Board signal, the lights had turned green. I was crossing over, suddenly an auto rickshaw comes out of nowhere, cuts across, breaking all rules and I had to hit the breaks but couldn’t stop myself from hitting the auto rickshaw.

Still from promo film on road accidents, made by the Bangalore Traffic Police.

It was a minor hit. I have a Maruthi 800, my bumper got dislodged a bit and the auto rickshaw’s right mudguard had a dent.

I know many people who would just drive off. The incident shocked me and I stopped.

The Auto Rickshaw guy was rude, tried to tell me I had to pay for the damage etc. I told him I am not going to talk to him and that he should call a cop. The cop came, the auto rickshaw fellow told his tale in Kannada so I don’t know what he said. I told the cop my version. The cop tells me, I should pay him and compromise or he can go and file a "Hit and Run" case against me. I was surprised. I said, "here I am talking to you, how can it be a hit and run case and what about the fact that this guy actually broke the rules?" He said, unless I go to the closest Police Chowki, it will be filed as a Hit and Run. So I went. (I know you think I am a fool).

Same story at the Madivala Police Station.

They said, "Pay him Rs 500 and go, or file a case." Of course, they told me that I could also file an FIR with my version of the story. But then I’d have to wait for 2-3 hours to have the inspector assess damage, might need to go to court etc… Basically asking me to take the easier way out.

It was disgusting, but I did take the easier way out. And I feel miserable about it.

All the way to the Chowki, I was telling myself, I’ll not bribe anyone, or pay for something that’s not even my fault. But in the end I did.

The incident I narrated takes place, in some form or the other, everyday in almost every city in India. And yet we just accept it as part of life. And move on. Shouldn’t such occurrences be prevented from happening?

I started to wonder, how little I am aware of, what my rights are, as a citizen, when faced with such a situation. Don’t I have any place to go where I can say that I have been coaxed by the law-keepers to bribe the auto rickshaw-walla? Isn’t it high time when we should be educating and making people aware of these rights.

We all talk of corruption and the need to end it. And that the responsibility to end corruption lies with each one of us. What we don’t do is arm the citizens with the weapons to fight this corrupt system. I guess, I need to be educated on my rights and so do many of us.

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  1. This is a good reason why it is important to learn the local language irrespective of where you are. A friend of mine who is from UP had a similar fender bender instance. Initially the auto driver began yelling and demanding money from him. Once my friend switched from Hindi to Kannada, the auto driver’s attitude completely changed and he left grumbling. Many people from other parts of India who live in Bangalore think there is no need for them to learn Kannada and make no effort to do so. Does anyone think that I would have got a better deal from the police in Delhi if I could not speak in Hindi? Please think through …

  2. This is not the 1st time this has happened.
    I don’t see why you had to be so vulnerable. It is ILLEGAL for someone to ask for money in case of an accident. Any damages have to be adjusted against insurance claims.

    Contact Mr Praveen Sood, I’m sure the gentleman can help.
    CCTV footage might be available too.

  3. I think the way it works with these minor traffic accidents is that the larger vehicle is considered to be at fault..irrespective of what really happened..this is what a police officer told me many years back and if you did file the complaint, they would probably have asked you to leave your car (and the auto) behind till further checks. In a similar situation once, I offered to leave the car behind (and perforce the auto) at which point the auto driver backed off.

  4. Madhumita, the amount you paid was not a bribe.

    It sounds like extortion, assuming it was the auto drivers fault, like you have pointed out. Everything you have written out – particularly the question about what your rights and responses in such a situation ought to be – is still valid.

  5. Instead of catching two wheelers if the traffic police could have charged auto wallahs ,this type of issues would have solved.
    One more thing i need to tell in this time is ..I pity on the people who take Auto’s in Bangalore,If we stop taking Auto’s definitely they will recognise.
    Especialy Software People doesnt care about money are ready to give how much ever driver charges,
    Go and book taxis [Meru/Fastrack/easy cabs],which is i guess cheaper than Auto’s..

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