When recently an auto-driver was arrested for misbehaving with a 73-year-old Australian national and charging him exorbitantly, unfortunately, that was neither the first nor the last incident of foreign tourists suffering at the hands of locals trying to fleece them.

The auto driver first doubled the price of Rs 200 initially agreed upon for a ride within Byappanhalli police station limits in Bengaluru, then immediately charged Rs 700 more.

The Karnataka police said on Monday, that the arrested auto-driver has been identified as 23-year-old Sharath, a resident of Byappanhalli. The arrest has been made on the complaint of Gary John Newman, an Australian national residing in Amarjyothi layout of Dommalur.   

Vidhana Soudha
In picture: Vidhana Soudha, the seat of the Karnataka Legislature.Creative Commons

Newman, who lives alone in the city, came to India 10 years ago on a tourist visa. After working for a few years in a private company in Bangalore, he has been leading a retired life. Newman had initially negotiated to pay Rs 200 for the commute. On reaching the destination, the auto driver increased the fare to Rs 400. Reluctantly, when Newman agreed to pay that as well, suddenly the auto-driver again increased the fare to Rs 700 more. On this, when Newman tried to take a picture of the registration number of the auto-rickshaw, his phone was snatched. The driver also hurled abuses at him and drove away.

Newman suffered injuries, called his neighbour and the two policemen also arrived at the site of the incident. The official complaint was lodged on October 7 and on October 10, the arrest was made.

 Of harassed foreigners and local swindlers

There are countless means and methods through which the harassment of foreigners begins the moment they touch base. Right from bottled water being sold for double the price to inflated taxi fares to touts posing as local guides.

It was only this March when Delhi Police's cyber cell arrested 34 people and unveiled a cartel that would dupe foreigners on the pretext of providing technical support. The racket was busted after a complaint that led to a raid at a building in Uttam Nagar of Delhi. Illegal call centres were being operated from the area. Victims were usually people living in the US, who were being called by impersonators posing as officials of the US drug enforcement agency. The callers would extort money to the tune of $2,000 from victims.

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Vehicles move past the India Gate war memorial in New Delhi, India, October 1, 2016.Reuters file

Cases registered under crimes against foreign tourists usually pertain to forgery, robbery, rape, assault on women and others. Unfortunately, the Capital of India, Delhi accounts for a hefty share of such crimes. As per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, a total of 409 cases of crimes against foreigners including rape, murder and theft were lodged in 2019. Of the total number of cases, Delhi registered 123 cases, while Maharashtra had 48 such reported cases. 

Many a blogs testimony to unreported incidents

It is only understandable that for every reported case, at least five remain ignored and unreported by tourists for the all-pervading fear or harassment, lack of time or possibility of being at the mercy of authorities. Many a blogs are testimony to how foreigners bring out the worst in touts.

"Sir, looking for a hotel? Visiting India for the first time?" and it starts. Each year, they might shrink in numbers but they come back better at the game, English speaking, suave and smart. Despite several checks and surveillance cameras in place, Delhi's T3 still hasn't been able to completely eradicate the menace.

From the airports to historical sites to places of tourist interest, touts lurk at all the places looking for potential traps, whereas local businessmen, small shopkeepers or camel ride owners, rip-off in the name of pricing. If a brown man in a white country knows what racism feels like, then a white man in a brown country knows all too well what it is like to pay a 'hefty price' for skin colour. Ironical, in a country, which has a cultural reference of considering guests to be gods.