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Posts Tagged ‘Uma Bharti

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan suffers from chronic verborrhea. He shoots off jumlas with greater rapidity than in even Narendra Modi. If the rape of a child is highlighted in the media, he takes no time in announcing that child rapists will be given death sentence and his government will bring in the next session of the Assembly the bill to amend the relevant section of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). If a rape is highlighted in the media, he promises death sentence for the rapist by amending the law. If a gang-rape is highlighted in the media, he shouts with full force the death sentence for all the rapists by amending the law in the next session of the Assembly. At present the IPC stipulates from seven years’ rigorous imprisonment to life term for rape, depending on the circumstances.

One thing, he has never moved to introduce a bill to amend the IPC. Secondly, his jumlas come out only when the crime is highlighted in the media. Scores of incidents of molestation and rape take place regularly in Madhya Pradesh outside the big cities and away from the media glare but Chouhan was never heard saying that he could not sleep because of that incident or that he will ensure that the rapist will be awarded the death sentence. Madhya Pradesh, incidentally records the highest molestation/rape incidents in the country. The State Assembly was told earlier this year that on an average, 11 women were raped every day and six women were gang-raped every week in the State during 2016, over half of the victims being minor. Between February 2016 and mid-February 2017, as many as 4279 women were raped and 248 were gang-raped in the State. Of the 4279 rape victims, 2260 were minors. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the State had 5076 such cases in 2014 and 4391 cases in 2015.

The short-lived BJP government of Uma Bharti had addressed itself to the problem of humiliation of women in public and moved a bill in the Assembly to provide harsher punishment to the offenders. She, though, could not see it through. Babulal Gaur had replaced her as the chief minister by the time the bill was passed. It became part of the statute book in December 2004.

The bill added Subsection-A to Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (use of criminal force to outrage the modesty of woman) and provided that the offender ‘shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine.’ The main Section provides for a maximum punishment of up to two years. Besides, the Madhya Pradesh amendment also provides for the same punishment to whoever abets or conspires in the act, which is not there in the main Section.

Difficult to say how the amended Section would have been enforced had Uma Bharti remained at the helm of affairs. Her successors (Babulal Gaur and then Shivraj Singh Chouhan), however, did not show any interest in this. The amended law was consigned to the archives once the gazette notification was made. Today most of those concerned – the politicians, the police officers and, of course, those for whose benefit the Act was amended — are not even aware that such a law exists.

Crime, particularly the crimes against women, has been steadily going up in Madhya Pradesh for quite some time. It was during the BJP government of Sunderlal Patwa that Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of heinous crimes including murder, rape and dacoity. The trend continued almost unabated during the ten-year Congress regime of Digvijaya Singh. Bad law and order, with emphasis on crimes against women, formed part of Uma Bharti’s vigorous campaign for the November 2003 Assembly elections, along with what was then described as BSP (bijli, sadak, pani). Being a woman, she had shown particular sensitivity towards the plight of women. Under her leadership, the BJP captured power with an overwhelming majority.

It would be interesting to note that Chouhan, when he replaced Babulal Gaur as Chief Minister in November 2005, believed there was no rule of law in the State. This he put as his top priority. The Governor’s customary address to the Assembly at the beginning of Chouhan’s first budget session had specifically stated: ‘Meri Sarkar ki prathamikata kanoon ka raaj sthapit karana hai’ (the priority of my government is to establish the rule of law). The Governor’s address is always approved by the cabinet. Unfortunately, the law and order in the State has since been steadily deteriorating.

A major reason for this state of affairs is the total personalisation, not politicisation but personalisation, of the police force (once described by Madhya Pradesh High Court judge as ‘criminals in uniform’). Secondly, there are too many IPS officers and an acute shortage of the lower staff who do the field work. To top it all, there is the pathetic insensitivity of the police almost at every level. by the

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Mention a ban on sand mining in Madhya Pradesh and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan gets into panic. When Union Minister of Water Resources Uma Bharti expressed her hope that Chouhan would put a ban on sand mining in the Narmada river in the course of his Narmada Yatra as it has been destroying the river, Chouhan promptly retorted that no effort would be spared to stop ‘unauthorised’ sand mining on the banks of the Narmada river but the ‘legal mining will continue’.  It is in the garb of legal mining that illegal mining is flourishing in the State.

After Chouhan had launched Narmada Seva Yatra at Amarkantak, the source of the river in southern part of the State, on December 11, Uma Bharti had congratulated him and expressed the hope that he would put a ban on sand mining in the Narmada and then only the conservation of the river would be complete. Chouhan has named this campaign ‘Namaami Devi Narmade’. It was launched after performing Pooja (worship) of Narmada River. Those present included Acharyas, Mahamandaleshwars, Sadhu-Mahatmas, and members of his cabinet.

Described by Chouhan’s Public Relations Department as the world’s biggest public campaign to conserve the river and environment, the Yatra will cover 3334 kilometres on both sides of the river in 144 days. Hundred-odd persons, mostly the ruling party activists, and a sprinkling of saffron clad sadhus are marching along the river. Chouhan joins them at fixed points every few days for a while to deliver his speech on the importance of Narmada for the development of the State. His speeches mostly focus on the spiritual connection of Narmada with the people of the State and the necessity of rejuvenation and conservation of the river. The Yatra will culminate at Amarkantak itself on May 11, 2017.

In one of his speeches he said: Maa Narmada is in difficulty today. The flow of the river has reduced because of deforestation. Maa Narmada has given us water, electricity, crops, fruits and vegetables, etc, but we have polluted it and have given invitation to various diseases putting the life (of  people) to danger. There is need to restrain ourselves and repent for our sins. Our sins can now be washed away by plantation, bio-farming, sanitation and environment conservation. The plan envisages plantation of fruit bearing trees on the banks of the river.

Gaur’s Report

More than 200 sewerage drains flow into the river at various plants. Chouhan promised to stop that source of pollution of the river. His government has not, however, spelled out a concrete plan for that. Enough to say that all those present at the launch of the Yatra were either politicians or eminent godmen. No environmental experts were invited barring one – Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Rajendra Singh who is occasionally invited to the State to deliver a speech and his role ends there as far as the State is concerned.

Conservation of Narmada River was first conceived by Babulal Gaur. As Chief Minister in 2004-5, Gaur had toured the entire Narmada area. Later in 2009 as Minister of Urban Development in the Chouhan government, he had prepared a report on ‘Narmada Sanrakshan Karya Yojana’ (Narmada conservation project). It aimed at covering all villages, Nagar Panchayats, Municipalities and Municipal Corporations situated on the banks of the river and also containing effluents flowing into the river.

The project envisaged setting up a conservation room in every municipal council to monitor and control pollution. It was decided to shift all crematoria to at least one km away from the river bank, check immersion of human and animal corpses, and build treatment plants at liquor factories situated on the bank. Besides, it was planned to make plantations on large scale on the river banks and construct lodging boarding places for the pilgrims.

However, the project report was shelved as Gaur’s portfolio was changed. It is not clear why Chouhan developed sudden love for Narmada River at this stage. Two developments could have contributed to his decision. One is the repeated allegations made inside the Assembly and outside about the involvement of his close relations in the illegal sand mining which is destroying the Narmada River. Former Leader of Opposition Ajay Singh, for instance, said that the sand mafia was fearless as Chief Minister Chouhan was himself involved with the Sangh leaders keeping mum. He alleged that the illegal sand mining was going openly in Hoshangabad, Budhni (Chouhan’s Assembly constituency) and the entire Narmada River ‘under the Government patronage’. Relatives of Chouhan were openly doing illegal mining, making the Narmada River hollow, he added. Police/mining officers trying to check illegal mining had been thrashed and even killed.

Another allegation is that Chouhan has quietly surrendered the State’s rights over Narmada water to Gujarat. The 1979 Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Award had estimated 28 million acre foot (maf) water in the river. Out of that, Madhya Pradesh was allotted 18.25 maf, Gujarat 9 maf, Rajasthan 0.5 maf and Maharashtra 0.25 maf. Not satisfied with the water allotted to it, Gujarat had been eyeing a larger share and making preparations in haste while Madhya Pradesh lags much behind and is not in a position to make full use of the water allotted to it by 2024. Soon after becoming Prime Minister, Narendra Modi gave clearance for raising the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam and then Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel even performed the ‘bhoomi-poojan’ for raising the height of the Dam – so quietly and quickly that Madhya Pradesh was left with no time even to lodge its protest.

According to Congress leader and former minister Raja Pateria, the Chouhan government had recently made a drastic change in the Narmada project without taking the people’s representatives and the people into confidence. The original project on Narmada River had envisaged construction of several dams including Raghavpur, Basania, Rosra, Sitareva, Upper Budner, Ataria, Sher Shakkar, Machhareva, Doodhi, Morand and Ganjal but the State government has now decided not to go ahead with their construction. According to Pateria, the Government’s quietly taken decision will mean that some 6.5 lakh acres of agricultural land will be deprived of irrigation water.


November 2017
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“Behind every great fortune there is a crime”, originally attributed to 19th-century French writer Honoré de Balzac.

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