Wednesday, December 16, 2009

“Hafta” and the Underground Economy

We think most of the small businesses we see on the roads are illegal. Not so. They pay protection to the police and municipal authorities. Yesterday I heard my fruit seller curse the men who had come calling with choice expletives. All these vendors you see on the roads: gram, vada pao, fruits, newspapers, sugarcane juice, tender coconut, flowers, etc. are protected by the police and the municipal corporation. This system is called "hafta" meaning weekly, meaning a weekly bribe. Seems a politician's goons beat up an engineer because he failed to give a hafta to a chief minister's birthday party. This underground activity is prevalent in most parts of the country and is an economy of its own volition.

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