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Millennium Post

When public services go for a toss

It is too early to say what will be the political fallout in the long run of the outpouring of grief and anger over the gangrape and death of a young woman who has been accepted by the nation as a daughter. But, at least a few sensitive individuals in the government may have realised how wide is the present rift and how deep the disconnect between the politicians and the urban middle class.

The gulf, which had begun following the surfacing of a series of scandals in the last two years, has undoubtedly widened in the aftermath of the incident of rape because both the scams and the latest outrage have pointed to the government’s culpability at various levels.

If the cases of sleaze in which Andimuthu Raja, Suresh Kalmadi and others were involved showed the government’s inability and/or unwillingness to control graft, the rape in a Delhi bus underlined the collapse of public services. The subsequent official promises to strengthen the anti-rape laws and improve the performance of the police have only confirmed how these essential measures had been neglected till a horrendous incident awakened the government.

It is this lackadaisical attitude that has aroused the fury of the middle class. They have realised that the government and, indeed, the entire political class has become a self-serving oligarchy preoccupied with feathering its own nest and uninterested in popular welfare. It is this lack of interest that made the government turn a blind eye to an inordinate 873.3 percent increase in rape cases in the country from 2,487 in 1971 to 24,206 in 2011.

A more sensitive government would have bestirred itself to consider administrative and social remedies for the rising crime.
But, if Manmohan Singh’s attention was on trying to sustain the growth rate with his right-wing economic policies against the wishes of the left-of-centre Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, the latter’s sole concern was to pave the way for Rahul Gandhi’s coronation as the prime minister.

There was no time for either of them to focus on the more mundane administrative tasks. As a result, a stage had been reached where a rape was taking place in the country every 20 minutes or so, to mention only the most abhorrent of crimes. Besides rape, murders, too, had increased, though at a slower pace of 250 percent between 1953 and 2011. But, these remained mere statistics in the files of somnolent ministries.

To compound the administrative lethargy, the government undermined the autonomy of the police, which might have checked the crime rate, by using the force for partisan purposes. The emasculation of the police as a professional entity went hand in hand with the decline in the calibre of politicians. As history-sheeters became MLAs and MPs (one-fourth of the MPs have a dubious background), the criminalisation of the political and social scene took root with the subterranean nexus between the crooks in politics, the bureaucracy and the police.

In accordance with the saying that there is ‘honour among thieves’, the impious legislators, officials and policemen cocked a snook at the rule of law. Hence, the reluctance to improve anti-rape laws not only because there are rape accused among the ‘honourable’ elected representatives of the people, but also because strengthening one set of laws can have a cascading effect which will not be appreciated by the anti-socials in the corridors of power.

It is this cozy nexus, which has been shaken by the young apolitical urbanites. And they have done so because a middle class girl had been raped in the heart of the national capital.

Earlier, there had been a series of rapes not far from Delhi in Haryana. But, since they were mostly in mofussil towns, they did not create much of a stir.

More recently, following the Delhi rape case, a girl in Punjab committed suicide because of the police apathy in registering her complaint. Also in Punjab, an assistant sub-inspector was killed by an Akali Party member because he objected to the politician stalking his daughter.

It is possible that the middle class revolution may finally compel the governments at the centre and in the states to act against the culprits because of the high visibility which the news channels provide to the ‘pink revolution’,  to quote the Congress MP, Abhijit Mukherjee’s dismissive comment about the upsurge.

However, since the root of the problem lies in the degeneration of the political class, an immediate improvement does not seem likely. (IPA)
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