'Crime-free' Uttar Pradesh?
UP has been plagued by corruption—despite Adityanath’s concentrated efforts, the state needs a complete facelift to eradicate this deep-rooted evil.
On the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the two-day UP Investors Summit 2018, in Lucknow, the state's Police Department released an unusual advertisement in several English dailies with the tagline – 'You invest, we will take care of the rest'. The Summit, which was aimed at showcasing the investment opportunities in the state, concluded on February 22, with the signing of MoUs worth Rs 4.28 lakh crore.
The need for the Uttar Pradesh Police Department to release such an advertisement, just prior to the inauguration ceremony, in order to assure potential investors that their investments in the state would be safe, clearly indicates that the law and order situation remains a major concern for the business community and the measures initiated by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath so far to combat crime are yet to inspire full confidence among the investors.
The BJP election manifesto for the 2017 UP Assembly Election had promised that both corruption and crime would be rooted out from the state if the party was voted to power. Since taking over the reins of the state in March last year, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has been repeatedly stressing that his government would not hesitate to adopt tough measures for combating crime. Time and again he has been saying that criminals, anti-social elements and anti-nationals would not be allowed to operate from the state.
While it can't be denied that Yogi Adityanath's tough and aggressive stand against criminals has had some positive impact on the state's law and order situation, but at the same time, it would be an exaggeration to claim that the crime rate has fallen drastically since the BJP assumed power in Lucknow.
As per statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau for the year 2016, a total of 48,31,515 cognizable crimes comprising 29,75,711 Indian Penal Code crimes and 18,55,804 Special and Local Laws crimes were reported across the country. Of this, Uttar Pradesh accounted for 9.5 per cent of the total IPC crimes reported. The state reported the maximum number of cases under offences affecting the human body (11.2 per cent), murder (16.1 per cent), kidnapping and abduction (18.1 per cent), crimes against women (14.5 per cent), crimes against children (15.3 per cent), atrocities against Scheduled Castes (25.6 per cent), and cyber-crimes (21.4 per cent). In addition, it reported the maximum number of seizure of arms (27,189 arms) under the Arms Act. A total of 5,66,208 people were arrested by the state for various IPC crimes, again the highest in the country. In terms of the percentage share in IPC crimes committed across the country, Uttar Pradesh ranked first among the states, according to NCRB.
The crime statistics released by NCRB undoubtedly reveal a dismal picture of the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh. It needs to be noted though that the NCRB figures pertain to the year 2016 when the Samajwadi Party was in power. However, what these figures suggest is that cleaning up the crime-infested state would be a herculean task for the current Chief Minister, for whom combating crime in the state has become one of the key focus areas since his first day in office. The important question here is, given the enormity of the task, would he be able to bring any noticeable improvement in the state's law and order situation before the general elections, which are due in the country in 2019, or even 2022—when the five-year term of the present state government ends.
Both Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the BJP realise that bringing the crime rate in the state under control will not be an easy task and any measure they initiate towards achieving that goal will be met with stiff resistance, particularly from the Samajwadi Party, which had openly and shamelessly patronised criminals during its rule. Nevertheless, the efforts are on.
According to the newspaper reports, a total of 1,240 encounters have taken place since the BJP came to power in the state leading to the death of 40 criminals and injuring another 305. In addition, the police have made 2,956 arrests and seized 169 properties worth Rs 147 crore belonging to criminals. The government has also succeeded in instilling fear in the minds of criminals. Many wanted criminals have surrendered before the police on their own accord and quite a few, who were already in custody, have refused their release even after receiving bail. In fact, several criminals have cancelled their bail bonds and returned to the prison.
Of course, as was expected, the opposition parties are unhappy with the strategy adopted by the government to hunt down criminals. However, the common man, including the business community, who have for decades witnessed lawlessness and anarchy in the state, are not complaining. Understandably, the state government has refused to reverse its aggressive stance against the criminals.
Despite the considerable public support for the initiative to combat crime, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath needs to realise that merely chasing criminals will not lead to a significant improvement in the law and order situation, which is absolutely critical for attracting investments. The state government will also have to sincerely implement the various measures that the party listed in its election manifesto, released before the 2017 Assembly polls, for bringing about reforms in the administrative machinery including the Police Department. Tackling the deep-rooted corruption that had for decades crippled the administration, which again is intrinsically linked to the high crime rate in the state, continues to be a major challenge for the government. It remains to be seen how that hurdle is overcome.
In the meantime, it would be interesting to see how many of the MoUs that were signed during the Investors Summit translate into real investments. That would be indicative of the extent to which the Yogi Adityanath government has managed to gain the confidence of investors.
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)