Saharsa (Bihar): If your vehicle runs over a chicken or a goat on a Bihar road and you happen to hail from outside, be prepared to shell out anything between Rs 5,000 and Rs 25,000!
That is a warning many well-meaning development and health officials, who have suffered it first-hand, will give you.
"I was on my way to Saharsa from Patna and was stuck in a bad traffic jam in the middle," Umesh Gupta, who works with an international development organisation in Saharsa, told IANS.
THE CHICKEN CROSSED THE ROAD: Bihar villagers extract money from people if an animal comes under their car.
"After an hour, the traffic started moving. As my driver revved up the car, it hit a goat and the animal died. Immediately, the goat's owner stopped the vehicle and demanded Rs 16,000 from me."
Gupta, who is from Delhi, initially did not take the demand seriously but was soon surrounded by a group of people.
"I was all alone and some seven to eight people surrounded me. I tried to bargain but they were not ready. I gave them the Rs 5,000 I had. As for the remaining amount they insisted on taking my gold chain, gold ring and mobile phone - I had to get give it to get out of there safely," said Gupta, who is now extra cautious while driving on Bihar roads.
Gupta, however, managed to get back the money and jewellery as some people working under him were from the same village.
Rajat Singh, a doctor who works with an international health organisation and often travels to the state's interiors for work, was not so lucky.
"I had to give Rs 7,000 to a villager as my car ran over a chicken in Begusarai village a few months back. You just cannot do anything as they start threatening you and the money is nothing when your life is at stake," said Singh.
"They justify the huge amounts demanded. For instance, they told me the dead chicken would have given birth to many chicken and in turn those would have produced more...the cycle goes on."
Singh said it was an easy way of making money from outsiders as there is no one to check it.
"They demand the money based on the car your drive, the kind of clothes you wear and the language you speak. But such cases are rarely reported to police as people don't want to get into unnecessary trouble," he said.