Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Winter session of the Orissa Legislative Assembly commenced on the 2nd December in usual manner but no sooner than that it rammed into a stonewall over sharp deterioration in law and order. The House had to be adjourned for the day and, thereafter, for three consecutive days it was engaged in hearing chilling details of lawlessness in the State.
Whom to blame? Both the sides of the House have members who were sad that the ministry was not able to curb crimes. But, none was found to have any knowledge on the causes of crime. If one knew the cause, for reasons known to him, he did not keep it on records.
It is amusing that to most of the lawmakers, Naxalites were the main source of law braking. The Chief Minister assured the House to employ more numbers of police with more powerful weapons to tackle the Naxal menace and to provide physical protection to MLAs and MPs. Alleging that the CM’s reply was lackadaisical and evasive, the Opposition staged a walk out and the three long days of debate on lawlessness ended apparently with a pledge to fight the Naxalites. Here lies the mistake. The Naxalites are not a group of criminals in the strict sense of the word ‘crime’. They are a super-active group of maximalists who follow a particular political economy.
Theirs is a social cause, which the State cannot extinguish through partisan and unfair enforcement of law. The Naxalites are fighting to protect the interest of people perishing at the grass root level. A dishonest bureaucracy has made them suffer beyond tolerance. The common man in India doesn’t understand that his land is no more a democracy, he having no awareness to know of it. He doesn’t understand that it has become a plutocracy, where his representative, even though elected on the strength of his vote, represents only the interest of the rich and where the rich only rules for benefit of the rich through all the wings of democracy: legislative, executive, judiciary and press. He doesn’t understand to what extent he is affected by privatisation of the public sector undertakings. But he understands the humiliation he is subjected to by the local authorities. His grievances are not heard by the State. To such helpless people, the Naxalites lend their solidarity and lead them to a state of collective action against oppression. When the State fails to punish the guilty, they punish. That is, to them, an instant remedy.
An official report referred to in course of debates in the Assembly on 4th December carries instances of how corrupt officials have been encouraged by the State in the Tribal dominated district of Raygada and how it has intensified Naxal activities in the area. One P.C.Pradhan, Sub-Collector of Raygada, is involved in a lot of litigations for alleged swindling of tribal land measuring about 22 acres and has been charged under Rule 15.To the chagrin of tribal communities; he continues there and enjoys patronisation of the higher echelon of administration. When working as a Tahsildar, one D.N.Patnaik caused illegal transfer of about 700 acres of tribal land to affluent cultivators in blatant transgression of law but remained unpunished. Ramachandra Das, another officer, when functioning as sub-collector of Gunupur sub-division, transferred a lot of land to ghost names and subsequently changed the corresponding records of right in favour of his wife and brother-in-law. It is K.C.Badjena who, while working as B.D.O. of Kasipur Bloc, had allegedly swindled tribal land through ghost transaction, was the man who acted as Executive Magistrate at the time of Maikanch firing. S.K.Mishra continues to be a B.D.O. in spite of serious charges of misappropriation of funds from the Indira Awas Yojana in the same district to the bewilderment of the harassed beneficiaries. Officers like B.C.Panda, P.C.Sagar, T.R.N.Patra are allegedly involved in misappropriation of crores of rupees from developmental funds; but no exemplary action has been taken against them. The Chief Secretary of Orissa was informed of them and many others involved in similar malfeasances in a deeply researched document by the Collector of Raygada on August, 09.02 who had urged upon the administration to initiate strong action against these offenders in order to restore confidence of the local population in the State, as according to him, presence of these corrupt officers in the district was contributing to mass resentment and consequently to upsurge of Naxal rebellion. But so powerful are the corrupt officers that this well documented report of the Collector had to gather dust in the corridors of the Secretariat. Who to blame for the lawlessness if helpless people take law to their hands in despair?
Can a government devoid of administrative morales curb lawlessness by brute force of police? A lot many numbers of criminals having scant regards to law have infested the police machinery itself. According to a recent report, an officer who has earned as many as 11 black entries in his service records is enjoying the bliss of proximity to the C.M. who holds the Home portfolio him-self. He is Asok Barik, presently officer-in-charge of Mahakalapada P.S. in the district of Kendrapada. He was subjected to a case under section 409 of Indian Penal Code for misappropriation of a huge sum of money from the salary funds of the staff of Purighat P.S. on 16th December 1994 and subsequently the S.P., Cuttack, had to award against him three black entries in S.R. He has earned, from S.P., Jajpur, three black entries: one for rash behaviour unbecoming of a police officer, that caused public unrest on 01.09.1992,next for dereliction in duty on 01.09.1992 and the third, for corrupt practices on 31.07.1995; Proceeding No.52/89 and 53/89 under S.P.,Ganjam;No.3693 under S.P., Jajpur and No.7/98 under S.P., Cuttack, found him a fit case for reprimand under sec.836 of police manual and the black entries he received exceeded the tolerable limit of nine.
With men like this, can the police set examples of law-abidingness? Open any report of Audit, you shall find umpteen instances of wilful misappropriation of government money. Not a single Secretary has ever been held responsible for such and other unlawful activities resorted to in his department.
Who to blame, then, for lawlessness?