India – Towards Good Governance

govern_chain 

Experiences

On an international flight returning to India a few years back, a passenger was being reprimanded by the flight supervisor for unruly behavior in a drunken stupor. Upon touch-down, the flight supervisor asked the attendant to “go get the cops” from the airport. As I disembarked along with other passengers, I noticed the harassed flight attendant frantically looking for policemen on duty at the airport. She ran from one airport staff to another at the disembarkation bay, but no one had a clue about who to contact for a minor security issue. There were no cops around at the immigration clearance that night. Of course, many years down, security at Indian airports has been significantly strengthened.

Another day, another year. I had been stuck at a traffic signal for over twenty minutes. As the lights turned green, I moved my car forward hoping to cross the junction this time. No such luck. I braked to a stop as two city buses were blocking my way coming from a by lane crossing the traffic signal. In the massive bumper-to-bumper jam, I gestured to a bus driver to allow me to move as my lights had turned green. He gestured crudely to fly over. Some distance away, I could see the lone traffic policeman trying his single best to tackle the traffic mob. A mask on his nose shielding him from the traffic pollution. With no help coming my way, I managed a ‘u’ turn on a busy stretch of crossing and took another route to my destination. I had broken a traffic rule by taking a ‘u’ turn in the middle of busy crossing, but not a soul from the law business came to stop me or the bus drivers.

Elsewhere in the glitzy millennium city, an IT professional is kidnapped for ransom from a busy commercial area, in broad daylight. More recently and more prominently, the kidnap and brutal rape of a young para-medic woman in a moving bus shook the nation, and the world alike. In spite of the global outrage at this brutality, rapes continued with abject apathy across India; in villages; in cities; in moving vehicles; at homes and at schools. There is a social angle to sexual assaults, but I would like to focus on the scarcity of security personnel. Bomb blasts are common incidents that occur in India at regular intervals, more so to commemorate the anniversary of dates significant to the governing political parties or to terrorist groups.

Catechism

Where are the cops? In the recent years I have travelled extensively to several Indian cities. One common aspect to all cities were the missing security personnel.

Policemen on beat patrol in India are non-existent, in a way abetting serious and petty crimes in cities and towns. Shocking, considering the rise in serious crimes against women on the roads, not to mention repeated and imminent terrorist attacks that plague India.

The police department is extremely short staffed and stretched owing to the deployment of significant number of forces on guard duty for the high profile elitists. The only uniformed officials visible anywhere on the roads are the traffic policemen deployed on select traffic signals. The smaller by lanes of cities are hitherto left unmanned. However, we do see a rise in the number of private security guards deployed in malls, shopping complexes or private residential colonies.

The private security guards at the shopping malls, corporate offices or smaller shopping complexes are diligent in body frisking and checking our bags. But are these guards truly competent enough to manage a crowd at shopping malls in the event of any disaster; do they know who to contact in the event of a fire or a hostage situation?

Are we, the citizens, truly secure in the absence of any trained policemen? It is often reported that the emergency police number do not work or there is no response. Even if they do respond, there is considerable delay in enforcement arriving to take charge of a situation. What if an untoward situation occurs in a neighborhood, a scuffle; chain snatching on roads by youth on motorbikes; or the more recent incidents of brutal attacks on young women returning home at odd hours. Who will take charge of guiding people to safety? It will be up to the public to inform the police, thereby losing crucial time in an emergency.

Elucidation

For decades, eradicating unemployment has been a key election mandate of various political parties. However, with each passing election there has been little or no change in implementation of employment guarantee schemes. Developing and implementing modern policies and systems is the most significant need of the new century. In this particular instance, create a special task force of young officers to tackle minor and petty issues on the roads, malls or in the by lanes or every single village, town, city of India.

The new age, tech-savvy breed of governing bodies can bring about a significant change in governance by creating a Special Foot Patrol Police Force to man a pre-designated neighborhood area in cities and towns, across the country. For this special force, young unemployed men and women can be recruited as Officers on Beat Patrol. India has an impressive lineup of manpower waiting for opportunities. There are millions of youth in every part of the country looking for odd jobs. It would not be wrong to say that Indians have above average intelligence in comparison to its worldly brethren. It is up to us, the 21st century generation, to tap the strengths and abilities of the youth and open opportunities towards good governance.

Creating a Special Patrol Police Force for neighborhoods will enable efficient governance of public safety. This special force need not go through the vigorous training of a Police Academy but should get a generic training in maintaining law and order in public, disaster management and basic traffic laws. A uniformed approach should be compulsory as the public is usually intimidated by a figure in police uniform. This force should be connected by walkie-talkies to local police station and hospitals, to report minor incidents, petty crimes or other emergency situations. This major means of communication will help in curbing hoax calls to an already stretched force.

The presence of officers on beat patrol in every nook and corner of a city might even be a strong deterrent to roadside kidnappings for serious offences like rape, ransom or theft. This may increase the public’s confidence in our judicial systems.

Rumination

Several developed countries like the US, UK and first world nations have Special Forces on Beat Patrol which tackles minor and petty crimes and incidents around neighborhoods. The Indian Police department can consult the security agencies in these developed countries on how to develop such forces. The services of retired local police personnel should be availed to train the unemployed youth for patrol duties.

The authorities may put forth the argument of “lack of funds”, but the “cash rich India” can definitely invest a small amount on the safety of its most valuable resource, the citizens.

These small, but significant, changes in governance will bring about a feeling of security to the citizens in our towns and cities, across India. If the common man can think of simple solutions to the giant safety issues plaguing India, then why are the mechanisms already in place sitting idle.

In the Elections 2014 the nation joined hands and voted for development and good governance. Security for all is a significant aspect of good governance and the new government has some tough tasks ahead to introduce modern systems and processes in India.

We the people of India claim our rightful share in world-class quality living standards and state-of-the-art infrastructure and mechanisms that ensure our safety. Let us be the leader willing to change for the better and allow our country to thrive.

(Also published on https://www.saddahaq.com/india-towards-good-governance)

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Continue reading “India – Towards Good Governance”

Defining ‘Rape’ as a ‘Mistake’

I Made A Mistake

What has changed since December 2012?

Nothing.

The over all situation on matters concerning safety and security of the common man, especially women and children, remain unchanged. Even our reactions to the reported crimes remain the same.  One sensational incident and we sizzle, the media goes on an overdrive, the political opponents skin each other, those who claim responsibility for the crime watch the drama on their TV sets and have the last laugh. In a few days, things are back to normal.

The only visible difference, if any, is that Nirbhaya rape case has set a precedence for all subsequent offenders to threaten their victims with similar dire consequences.

The lax response of our governments to the ‘Rape Epidemic’ is also corroborated by the fact that the Indian definition of rape is ‘Mistake’. This point is evident from the three casual statements. First, by Mulayam Singh Yadav, leader of the Samajwadi Party in UP who declared at a public rally, “Boys are boys. mistakes happen sometimes.” The second statement by an unrepentant Uber cab driver, “I made a mistake. What do I do?” And the third, by Ravindra Jhunjhunwala, an NRI, a Harvard educated senior company executive and most recently a molester on flight, “I am sorry, it was a mistake”.

Sexual offence is not restricted to the ruthless villager working as a laborer in a city. The criminals belong to varying social and professional strata – political leaders, senior government officials, bureaucrats, MNC executives, teachers, peons, drivers, delivery boys, uncles, fathers, brothers, businessmen, even godmen.  The list is endless. They lurk in all corners of our lives and age is no barrier in choosing their victim.

However, I am writing this page with a differing perspective.  I present three cases below of sexual offenders belonging to different classes, occupations and states. The sentencing in all three cases is different, though, the crime remains the same.

DHANANJOY CHATTERJEE

A security guard from Kuludihi in West Bengal, Dhananjoy Chatterjee rapes a 14 year old girl in Kolkata in March 1990. Executed by hanging on 4th August 2004, in Alipore Jail, Kolkata.

INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE – HARYANA, S.P.S. RATHORE

Inspector General of Police – Haryana, S.P.S. Rathore molests 14 year old Ruchika Girhotra in his office in 1990. Young Ruchika commits suicide due to illegal police excesses. December 2009 – 19 years, 40 adjournments, over 400 hearings later, Rathore pronounced guilty, sentenced upto two years imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 1000. Supreme Court of India grants him bail in November 2010.

BADAUN RAPE CASE – UTTAR PRADESH

May 2014. Two teenaged girls in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, gang raped by the upper caste influential men with political clout and hanged on a tree, while still alive. The girls, belonging to the lowest strata of society, had ventured out at night for their daily ablutions in the nearby fields. “The CBI announced on 27 November 2014 that they have concluded that the two cousins were not sexually assaulted and murdered as police initially said, but took their own lives.”

Reasons for the differing treatment of the three cases presented above are evident. Those who did not not hold any significant social political or official position were handed severest punishment, whereas those in superior social standing got away with lenient or no charges.

Sanjeev Nanda, Vikas Yadav, Manu Sharma, Santosh Kumar Singh, Biti Mohanty – these are only some of the high profile names involved in murder, rape and hit-and-run cases where the offenders have walked away with lenient charges.

Kasab, a small time suicide squad terrorist, was hanged to death, though strategically, to suit political timing, whereas Maulana Masood Azhar, much high above the terrorist cadres was allowed to go scott free and continues to plot terrorist attacks against India. The differential treatment here is also evident. The former was a common soldier of the suicide squad and his presence or absence wouldn’t affect any Jihadi outfit, whereas Azhar has strong hold among his masses. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why the Indian government developed cold feet and couldn’t send him to the gallows, even after apprehending him on serious charges of terrorism.

Similarly, in the recent New Delhi rape case involving the cab driver, it will not be difficult to pass an early judgment as no one benefits from a seasoned, unrepentant, socially backward rapist. His existence or the lack of it will not make any difference to anyone.

This is not to say that serial offenders from humble backgrounds should be treated leniently. Definitely Not.

The point in this case is that as long as judicial judgments differ due to the biases of social status of  the offenders, it will be impossible to bring about any significant change to our rotting-at-the-roots law and order systems.

The twenty first century Indian government has to introduce revolutionary changes to judiciary and law & order, one that is free from all and any external influences. Single common law across the country for crimes against humanity must be enforced. The government has to put in unprecedented efforts to eradicate this disease. Deal with it the way we guard our national borders.

After the Nirbhaya incident, why has there been this inveterate delay in levying checks and restrictions on all private transport operators, buses or cabs?

What are they waiting for? How many more Damini’s and Nirbhaya’s do we sacrifice before the noose is tightened around the criminal necks?

On the other hand, it is important for women in India to accept the fact that ‘Rape’ is endemic to India and we have no other option but to exercise caution and precautions, at all times. Laws, Ministers or the Police can not stop rapes or any sexual assault, because respecting women and acknowledging that they have rights was never included in any textbook, moral stories or parental upbringing. Even women have been submissive for centuries.

Rape, Sexual Assault, Molestation; these are not a disease that has suddenly turned into an epidemic.  This ailment, like termites, has been eating away into our social systems for centuries. Countless widows, young unmarried women and children from the bygone era would have fallen prey to predatory men, but maintained silence due to lack of support systems that would throw spot light on their plight.

This issue is out in the open and discussed widely only because of the growth, extent and influence of all forms of Media and of course, because women of the millenia refuse to bow down anymore to the vulgarities of menfolk.

The seed is sown. Women have spoken out against this evil. However, we have to understand that change will not come about in a day. It will take several generations to bring about any social changes to the existing mindsets of the supposedly superior gender, Man. Until then, women of all ages have to take a warrior stance to fight off this evil. Be socially aware and speak out early. Create such an atmosphere in our society, home, work places, everywhere, that no woman fears or hesitates to speak out against these sick offenders. The January 2015 flight molestation case is a good point where the woman refused to remain silent about even a poking from Jhunjhunwala, she recorded his statement and posted the video widely on social media.

Educating has to start early with the young men and women, and has to begin at home.

I quote my mentor, Daisaku Ikeda, a Buddhist leader, “Education should not be based on or limited by a nationalist agenda. Education must cultivate the wisdom to reject and resist violence in all its forms. It must foster people who intuitively understand and know  in their mind, in their heart, with their entire being – the irreplaceable value of human beings and the natural world.”

(Also published on https://www.saddahaq.com/defining-rape)