Shades of Grey
No, this is not a review of a prurient novel. The other day driving back from work our car was stopped. We pulled over, where some officers used a measuring box on our car windows. The purpose? Apparently, in India there are regulations on the tint of car windows. The motivation ostensibly is that dark windows enable crime. From the actual Indian law:
The use of black films upon the vehicles gives immunity to the violators in committing a crime and is used as a tool of criminality, considerably increasing criminal activities. At times, heinous crimes like dacoity, rape, murder and even terrorist acts are committed in or with the aid of vehicles having black films pasted on the side windows and on the screens of the vehicles.
The law goes on the say that the maximum permissible tint is 50%. The windows of our car are in fact lightly tinted. I’d say a great many cars in India have this, since the sun can be so bright (and HOT) here.
The measuring box showed 34% – indicating we had tint of 66%. I found that hard to believe, it certainly did not seem like 2/3rds of outside light was being blocked from entering the car. Anyway rather than disputing the finding it was easier to pay the fine, Rs. 100, or just under $2.
Now, the US also has regulations on tinted car windows. I’ve never seen them enforced this way. In my time here we’ve been stopped at random for inspections and apparently ad hoc tolls. Always some small amount is required. There is always the question of how much of these monies are directed to the public coffers and how much might be diverted by the officers. I don’t have an opinion one way or the other, but it doesn’t take long before you pick up that average Indians do not always trust the police or their government officials.
This is a country where two young women were recently arrested for making a Facebook post. The subject of the post was the recent citywide shutdown of Mumbai for the funeral observances for politician Bal Thackeray, and was to the effect of questioning whether the shutdown was appropriate. 9 members of Bal Thackeray’s party, Shiv Sena, were arrested after vandalizing a clinic run by an uncle of the original Facebook poster, apparently in revenge for what they considered disrespect.
As the India Times reported, the girls were arrested “… under section 505(2) IPC (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes)…” Bal Thackeray himself was famous for making extreme statements such as a call for Hindu suicide bombers to counter Muslim terrorists.
A complicated country. Some things are changing at incredible rates. Other things, not so much.