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Have fair expectations

New UP govt needs time to improve law & order.

Have fair expectations
Improving the state's law and order will prove to be the biggest challenge for new Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. In its election manifesto for the 2017 Assembly polls in the state (Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra 2017), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had promised to rid UP of both 'goondaraj' (reign of criminals) and 'bhrashtachar' (corruption), after coming to power. As part of a plan to tackle crime and corruption effectively, the party listed a host of measures in the manifesto, aimed at reforming the state's policing system, carrying out administrative reforms and initiating a movement against corruption. Now that the BJP is firmly in power in Lucknow, after having clinched 325 seats out of 403 in the Assembly, it is time to begin work on delivering those promises.

Since decades, in UP's wild and rugged political terrain, caste and crime have been considered the two most vital ingredients for success as well as survival. Despite realising long back that the lethal concoction was slowly, but surely, killing the state's growth and development, political parties did little to check its spread. Gradually, over a period of time, both caste and crime came to be accepted as lifelines that could not only revive dying political parties but also launch new ones.

While the caste factor helped political parties bring in votes, the other provided the much-needed muscle power. To ensure a steady supply of both, and in abundance, it became a norm for the ruling party to maintain tight control over the state's law enforcement agency, beginning with the higher echelons posted in Lucknow and moving down to the police station in districts. Such kind of control, of course, hindered the ability of police personnel to make decisions independently and prevented them from functioning effectively.

There is no denying that in the past, every political party while holding the reins of power in the state had interfered with the functioning of the police department, but perhaps the interference reached its peak during the previous Samajwadi Party government. The party went ahead and made sure that police stations in most districts, especially those under the direct influence of the ruling Yadav family, were headed by police officers of the same caste. An unwritten rule was laid down requiring 50 per cent of the inspectors and SHOs to be Yadavs. This approach plunged the state into complete lawlessness and incidents of crime skyrocketed since police stations decided on whether to lodge FIRs or not based on the caste of the complainant and the accused. In such instances, the senior police officials could do little as very often the Station House Officer, or even a constable, would wield tremendous power and influence because of his direct access to the ruling party politicians.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, under Ministry of Home Affairs, the rate of cases under SLL (Special and Local Laws) in UP during 2015 stood at 1181.2, the highest in the country. The rate of SLL crimes refers to the number of cases under SLL per 1,00,000 population. In comparison, the rate of IPC (Indian Penal Code) offences in the state during the same period was lower than most states at 112.1. This anomaly is probably because the state government had decided to register more cases under SLL and few under IPC since the total number of IPC cases are taken into account when assessing the law and order situation. However, if UP's SLL crimes are given weightage, the real picture would emerge, exposing how the last five years of misrule by the Samajwadi Party had led to a dismal law and order situation in the state.

Cleaning up the law and order mess left by the previous government is not going to be easy. However, the strong, caste-neutral and clean image of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath offers hope of a turnaround. The Chief Minister has kept the Home portfolio with himself.

The new government, in line with the commitments made, is expected to begin initiating a host of measures in the coming period to improve law and order. In the last few days, some concrete steps had been taken, particularly concerning the security of women. Also, several erring police personnel were recently disciplined, sending out a strong signal that those coming in the way of maintaining law and order would be dealt with severely.

Among the key measures expected to be initiated in the coming period include filling up of 1.5 lakh vacancies in the police department without any discrimination and in a transparent manner, filling up of all reserved posts in the police department within one year, digitisation of police records, setting up of a special law and order wing within the police force, ensuring that everyone is able to lodge FIRs without difficulties.

Also establishing six forensic science laboratories in the state, adopting methods that will ensure jailed gangsters are not able to operate from inside the prison, re-arresting criminals who are absconding under parole, providing police assistance within 15 minutes across the state through the 100 helpline number and creating anti-land mafia task force in every district. In addition to these measures, the new state government would also need to ensure that only honest, efficient and credible officers are placed in key positions in the police department, police officers are held accountable for their actions, a policy of reward and reprimand is followed, under which, honest and efficient police officers are appreciated, rewarded, and the corrupt and inefficient ones punished, and most importantly, all political interference in the functioning of the police department comes to an end at all costs.

People familiar with UP's political landscape know that the various measures which the state government has proposed, and in some cases already initiated, to improve the law and order are likely to face stiff resistance from various quarters. The state government will have to make consistent efforts to overcome such opposition, and at the same time, stay focused on the overall objective, which is curbing crime. It may take several months, or probably even longer, for the efforts to yield results on the ground. Expecting the law and order situation to turn around overnight, especially when it concerns the country's most populated state, is not only unrealistic but also unfair to the new government.

(The views expressed are strictly personal.)

Debdeep Chakraborty

Debdeep Chakraborty

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