What is behind crime spurt in UP?
Two months on, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government headed by Yogi Adityanath still appears to be looking for officers in the administration and the police who can be trusted to put its agenda into action. Be it improving the working culture in offices or showing quick results in crime control and investigation, the situation has not changed much after the initial euphoria over the so-called 'anti-romeo squads' or the crackdown on unauthorised slaughter houses.
For the record, though, the government has transferred more than 200 officers in the IAS, IPS and state services cadre, but many officers closely identified with the previous ruling party are still posted on important positions. Not only this the inquiry ordered by the BJP government into various schemes and projects initiated by the previous government has also not proceeded much. In the meanwhile, a string of incidents involving Thakurs and Dalits in western UP districts, some daring crimes including murders, loot, dacoity and reports of irresponsible behaviour by BJP supporters or leaders have created an environment of unease.
Coming within the first 60 days of the government's tenure, these incidents have given the much-needed fodder to the opposition Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and even the Congress, which are now gearing up for some joint action across the state.
A glimpse of this joint action was seen in the just-concluded Assembly session when the opposition members created unruly scenes during the Governor's address, even throwing paper balls at him, whistling and shouting. The Samajwadi Party leader and former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has been making highly critical remarks about Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, going to the extent of saying that Yogi needs to "learn" a lot from Akhilesh.
In the first ten days of Yogi government signals had gone that it was a tough man heading a no-nonsense government. The Chief Minister made several surprise visits in Lucknow, to rooms in the Secretariat, the Hazratganj police station, the KG's Medical College, and the Gomti riverfront development area. The crackdown on illegal slaughter-houses, gutkha, pan masala and polythene bags in government offices and the focus on punctuality had created an impression that the new government meant business. The much-publicised anti-eve teasing campaign was also generally welcomed despite allegations of moral policing. The Chief Minister also discontinued the services of many retired officers who had been retained by the previous government, and kept all departmental heads on their toes, going through their presentations till late into the night for several weeks.
But in the last one month, unruly behaviour by cow protection vigilantes, clashes between people of the Thakur and Dalit community, failure of the police to make any headway in incidents of loot and murder in Mathura, Lucknow and elsewhere besides other incidents has caused surprise and resentment among the people.
Poor law and order situation and lax crime control were among the main reasons that went against the previous Samajwadi party government, with frequent allegations of favouritism against the police. The BJP had promised improvement in law and order and Yogi Adityanath had given a tough message against anti-social elements in his first address to the media.
He also took his time to change the Director-General Police, principal secretaries and secretaries of many key departments, and in organising his own team in the Chief Minister's office. However, the Chief Secretary Rahul Bhatnagar continues in his position despite the BJP's reservations against him. Although there has been a major reshuffle among district magistrates and police officers, the subordinate staff especially at the police station level, remains unchanged. Complaints of station officers and Dial-100 staff still behaving in an unresponsive manner have now become frequent. As a Congress spokesman said, the government appeared to be losing its iqbal (authority) - a charge that was often levelled at the Samajwadi Party government for its failure to reign in anti-social elements.
According to a senior police officer recently posted as an Additional DGP, it is common among criminals to re-align their activities after a change in the government. "After a lull in the first couple of weeks, they make a big strike like a daring murder or loot, and if the police response is weak, then they continue with abandon." Coupled to this is the fact that policing and police-criminal nexus has become so strong and deep in the state that no changes can be brought about in a few months.
Another factor is the delay in transferring police officers. Those posted by the previous government almost stopped working apprehending their transfer, and the delay made matters worse. "It is also to be remembered that for police officers, their style of working is more important than mere honesty which is often construed as weakness by criminals," said this officer. The initial inaction on cow-protection vigilantes also gave off a signal to other anti-social elements that they could get away with anything.
Lastly, it appears that the government is trying hard to locate officers who are not very closely aligned with the previous ruling parties. That is why the Chief Minister requested the recall of many officers from the Centre. But the number of such officials is not very high, resulting in the dilemma of continuing with those who were known to be partisan during the previous two governments. Add to it the fact that there could be elements in the BJP itself who would enjoy the Chief Minister's embarrassment. Yogi Adityanath has announced a review of his ministers' work after 100 days, but it seems more than a mere review would be needed.