At the time when jobs were being lost during the lockdown, some experts had warned it would lead to an increase in crime, particularly at the street level. While the actual statistics would present the true picture, this prediction seems to be coming true in UP. The state is going through a series of headline hitting incidents after the Vikas Dubey related events. Every category of crime is taking place, shattering Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s carefully cultivated image as ‘upholder of the law’. Even as the UP Police Department is not exactly among the best in the country, rendered ineffective as it is by the long nexus it has had with politicians and parties, many of these crimes are also rooted in the prevailing social conditions. If the crimes are to be categorised according to their nature, many are in a class not to be seen in relatively more ‘progressive’ states. There are actually places in the country where people will not kill each other over the issue of parking a car!
The situation should be a lesson for those in government that believe merely providing carte blanche to the police in dealing with crime is an effective solution. ‘Freedom from interference’ is not a substitute for quality of human resources, training, scientific investigations, understanding the law and its objectives, specialisation of cadre, etc., which are badly required in all states of the country. One needs only to look at the average pot-bellied cop in UP to understand how deep the problem is. Poor quality leadership and deeply embedded corruption are the bane of any attempts at reform.
UP is one of the states that also have a deep caste and political nexus with all aspects of governance. Appointment to critical posts like thanas and kotwalis on the basis of caste has been a common practice, particularly in the times of SP and BSP governments. This was done not to enforce law and order, but to pursue the narrow political objectives of the government in power. When such governments are defeated in the elections, it is not just a change in regime, it often means ‘liberation’ for certain castes that have been oppressed during the period. Enforcing the law and protecting the general public, particularly the underprivileged sections, becomes a very difficult task for those who wish to do so.
The present situation should come as a wake-up call for Chief Minister Adityanath – he requires a more sophisticated and nuanced approach than that of the lathi-wielding ‘enforcer’ on the street. He should be able to choose from among the officer cadre those that have the ability to implement the new policing. If he cannot do it, himself, he should give the task to somebody who can, but it must be done. Otherwise, in the present stressed times, things can only get worse.