A nation is its people
Success of reform-based politics in India is an indication that good governance must always start with the people as the basis and not the land being administered
Innovations and reforms in health, education, etc., in Delhi, initiatives like Disha Act and other welfare concerns in AP, focus on the environment in Sikkim, etc., remind us of the famous lyrics of Gurajada, a renowned Telugu poet of yesteryears: "A nation is not its soil, but it is its people."
All those who are concerned with human suffering and consider the development and welfare of all citizens as the real progress of a country would agree. However, for all others who consider 'nation is a territory, not its people,' empty sloganeering and rhetoric take precedence over the lives and suffering of people.
The country has witnessed that in spite of all the BJP leaders in the country belittling the health, education, and other welfare initiatives of AAP government during Delhi elections, by giving an overwhelming mandate to this party, Delhiites proved that it is people who make the nation. There are also others who want to provide succour to people even by emulating them.
Uddhav Thackeray and Jagan are trying to implement the 'Happiness Curriculum' in Delhi government schools, which was acclaimed even by Melania Trump and the education system itself, in their states. Similarly, the door delivery services, that were stalled by the LG and the BJP for long but finally implemented after the SC decided the powers of the state government of Delhi, is being successfully copied in Andhra, Kerala and Orissa.
Recently, to the pleasant surprise of everyone, even the pensions for the old, poor, sick and invalid were delivered to their doorsteps by the volunteers of Jagan's Party in the early hours of February 1. It would be repeated every month. It is another matter that some service charge is being collected by the volunteers unofficially in saving the routine troubles of these claimants. Then, like how CCTVs and street lights installed against several odds are bolstering the confidence of women in Delhi, the new Disha Act and Disha App have begun building up the morale of women in Andhra.
After the Nirbhaya case in 2012 in Delhi, in which four accused would be finally hanged on March 20 after years of judicial proceedings, the gang rape and murder of Disha, a veterinary doctor, by four lorry workers, in Hyderabad, shook the conscience of the nation; people across the country even came in support of the encounter-justice meted out by the police. Disha Act was soon passed by AP government for delivering speedy justice as part of ensuring overall safety of women and children. The results are already being perceived.
About 30 cases of rape, murder or child abuse have been booked. The police conducted investigations, arrested the accused and filed charge-sheets in seven days, as prescribed by the Act. The award of the death penalty to a man for the rape and murder of a five-year-old girl in Chittoor district, after a trial within the stipulated time of 14 days, is the first success.
In order to achieve the targets, the burden on police and judicial offices has been lessened. 18 Disha police stations have been created and adequate staff with an incentive of 30 per cent additional pay posted. Now, on an average, each of the 90 investigating officers posted in these police stations has to deal with 20 cases a year against the national average of 80 cases. Further, a real-time investigation tracker is introduced which generates an SMS on the fifth day of registering an FIR to list out the yet to be completed tasks for the senior cops to intervene and facilitate. Upgrading and adding more of forensic labs with DNA testing facilities is another task on hand. Scientific advancement facilitates the DNA test report to be ready in 48 hours compared to 3-4 months taken earlier. Importantly, as many as 18 special judges and a proportionate number of prosecutors are being appointed exclusively for the trial of these cases. These are administrative measures. A real innovation to come out of this is the Disha App which has turned into a powerful weapon and over 12 lakh women have already downloaded it.
The app sends a distress message just by shaking the phone thrice. Besides the geo-coordinates, the victim can upload a 10-second video to the control room in the event of distress. A 16-year–old girl in a remote village of Ananthapur district was returning home alone at 00:30 hours when she noticed a stalker and sent an SOS through the app. And soon, the police reached the spot and took the man into custody. In another case, police intercepted a bus at 04:30 hours in Eluru and arrested a university professor following an alert from a co-passenger, who accused the former of harassing her. Similarly, police quickly acted and saved the victims in at least 34 cases in the recent past. Attracted by the uniqueness of this initiative, the Maharashtra government is also trying to use it there.
Not that there are no hiccups. Conducting a potency test on the accused in these cases is a major hurdle for police to file a charge-sheet in seven days since it is a tough task to arrange the three-member doctor team. As a way out, 'since any penetration is an offence under the POCSO Act, the test could be done even after filing of the charge sheet,' is the thought being considered. Although minor, another issue is that the control room receives several fake alarms when the mobile user with the app accidentally waves the phone. People are being educated in this regard.
Overall, there is increasing awareness. Even the police are becoming increasingly gender-sensitive. In one case, after taking preventive action against two professors of Andhra University for sexual misbehaviour with female students and researchers, and against another for an extra-marital affair with a scholar, police in association with the university authorities have decided to set up a virtual police station in the campus to facilitate lodging of complaints. While keeping details of the students confidential, action will be initiated against the perpetrators.
Disha Act is indeed a great initiative of the Jagan government for the welfare of the people. However, some of it appears to be populist at huge public cost, that too when the state is reeling under a financial crunch. It is unlike the situation in Delhi, where the AAP government came out with several freebies only after they ensured that they have a surplus budget. People hope that in AP too there would be a generation of adequate revenue to sustain the people-friendly schemes. All the same, Jagan has taken several positive steps after he came to power, unlike those leaders who are steeped in orthodoxy and are insensitive to human suffering. Take the examples of Gujarat and UP.
In Gujarat, a place of police encounters and flourishing rich and financial fraudsters, Bhuj college in Gujarat, 68 girls were paraded naked for examining if they were menstruating. About 100 women trainee clerks of the Municipal Corporation were made to stand nude for hours in Surat government-hospital for medics to conduct gynaecological finger test. These recent incidents highlight the mindset of authorities.
UP tops the list of states with the highest number of crimes against women, according to government data. In 2018, the father of a woman raped in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao was thrashed savagely by associates of Kuldeep Sengar, a former MLA of the state's ruling BJP, inside a police station and died from his injuries. Later, the rape-victim was seriously injured after a car she was travelling in was rammed by a truck with blacked-out number plates, killing two of her aunts. Similarly, Swami Chinmayanand, a serial rapist, a powerful politician close to the CM, was being protected, until the SC intervened. Recently, the father of a rape survivor has been shot dead allegedly by the man accused of raping his 15-year-old daughter in Firozabad. This is in spite of the fact that the accused had threatened to kill them if they did not drop the rape case, in which he has not been arrested so far even after a year.
Democratic protests are handled with an authoritarian hand, forcing Justice DY Chandrachud to observe, "Dissent is a safety valve of democracy...the true test of a democracy is its ability to ensure the creation and protection of spaces where every individual can voice their opinion without fear of retribution".
Their innovation is not in governance for the welfare of people but is confined to conducting police encounters and fixing 'name and shame' hoardings of protesters in Lucknow. Shaming the government, Allahabad HC ordered their removal immediately.
The CM, in yogi-uniform, and his party leaders at the Centre are so obsessed against Muslims that they consider themselves as having a monopoly over nationalism. But, a Muslim youth says, "Islam is my day; India is my soul. I do not leave either of them," and a Muslim girl says, "Islam is so great that it does not become small when I speak about my nation." Are these so-called BJP stalwarts more nationalistic than these youngsters? Will they ever realise that a nation is its people and understand the message of the song, Na Hindu banega, na Musalman banega; Insaan ki aulad hai insaan banega, which is the true essence of our Vedas?
The writer is a retired IPS officer and a former Member of Public Grievances Commission, Delhi. Views expressed are strictly personal