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GOVERNANCE UNDER QUESTION

MP’s Gang Rapes

By Proloy Bagchi

 

The capital of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal is seething with anger and outrage. Recent incidents of gang rape have put a big question mark on not only the safety of women in the State, but Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s claim of overall “good governance”.

In a span of two weeks, a Nirbhaya-like gang-rape of a 19-year-old civil service aspirant by six men and another of a 38-year-old labourer woman by five men, have hit the headlines. While the girl was returning from her coaching classes and was to take a train to her home town 70 kms away from the local Habibganj Station, the woman was allegedly gang raped for seven hours near Bhopal’s Obaidullaganj railway station.

Worse, in both the cases the police lacked utter insensitivity. The girl’s family was turned from one police station to another although the victim’s parents are also cops. They, for a long while, could not decide the matter of jurisdiction of the specific police station that, according to them, could entertain the complaint. In the process, several cops even took the victim’s version of her rape as a “filmy” story apart from making some pretty uncomplimentary comments against her. Likewise, the woman alleged that when she went to Obaidullaganj police station, they turned her away without registering a complaint and asked her to go to a police station in Habibganj.

Bhopal is a town where women are utterly unsafe. Reports appear in the local newspapers with unceasing regularity about alleged rapes, molestations, stalking and sexual assaults on women. Even as the police claim to be ‘investigating’ the latest cases, another gang rape case came to light wherein two brothers were allegedly raping an abducted 23-year old for over a month.

Whether it is rape or assault on women or violence against them or even robberies, loots and murders, the reports appear with uncanny regularity and yet local police seem to be unable to stem the rot. Though it is the seat of the State government, it appears to prefer to remain a mute witness of the goings-on in the capital.

Likewise, deaths due to road accidents are so frequent that it has started ringing alarm bells. A huge number of bikers, mostly engineering students, have met their end in the highly disorganised and unmanaged traffic of the city. Even the city roads, broken down and decrepit as these are, account for a number of accidents. Open manholes, unrepaired broken down roads or roads with massive pot-holes have killed numerous unwary commuters.

Ironically, while local newspapers were full of reports on bad city roads, recall Chouhan made a statement from Washington that the roads of his State were better than those of Washington! On being confronted, he said he had in mind the Indore Super Corridor created for transport of human organs for transplantation elsewhere. But one doesn’t know what the CM had in mind – the surface of the road or other amenities. The Corridor itself has no signage, transportation facilities for commuters to offices that have come up on the Corridor are scarce; even traffic management on it is absent resulting in frequent fatal accidents.

In any case, 99% of the roads in the State, including Bhopal, are far inferior to the Super Corridor. Surely, such is not the case in Washington. The CM forgot that he was comparing his State with the capital of the most advanced nation in the world! It will take more than a lifetime for him to build roads anywhere nears the quality of those in the US.

Sadly, all through his three terms the Chief Minister has paid little attention to governance. In every sphere where people’s happiness is involved there has been singular absence of governance. Whether it is healthcare, education or civic amenities, people are reported to have been made to suffer for want of facilities. The State is said to have the highest rate of infant and post-natal maternal mortality. Yet he wears the pretensions of being very effective and has even set up a Department of Happiness to emulate Bhutan’s experiment of spreading happiness.

Bhutan’s is an entirely different story which in no way matches up with that of Madhya Pradesh, which continues to be a an illiterate and largely unethical backward State. This is regardless of its proclaimed agricultural revolution that was presumably wrought by big farmers as otherwise there wouldn’t be record-breaking numbers of suicides by farmers in the State.

The lackadaisical attitude towards the environment of the capital is reflected by total inaction for conservation of its biggest asset, the Upper Lake and its catchments. While despite commissioning of various projects sewage continues to flow into the Lake, its catchments have been thrown open for construction against all environment norms. He has merely sat over on the report of the Centre for Planning & Environment & Technology which was commissioned by his government to suggest ways & means for the Lake’s conservation. No wonder the quality of its waters is deteriorating by the day.

And, recall BJP President Amit Shah publicly declared he had given Chouhan 100/100 marks (presumably for that D word – development). Shah seems to have glossed over the reports of alleged corruption against the CM. From the very first term the case of dumpers has been hounding him; then came the infamous Vyapam scandal and he or members of his family were allegedly involved in illegal mining of sand from River Narmada. It was also alleged that the Narmada Seva Yatra was organised largely in an attempt to cover the trails of illegal sand mining.

Shah stayed in Bhopal for all of three days and sniffed around, talked to various people, mostly of his own party. But it was widely reported that those who were not the CM’s sycophants would not be allowed to meet him. Whether they did or not was, however, not reported. But, strangely what stands out is that Shah couldn’t smell the rot in MP and did not get even a whiff of the alleged cases of corruption against the Chief Minister. Perhaps he did not have the nose for these. A few issues of local Hindi newspapers would have revealed to him the prevailing state of affairs.

Despite all this, it looks like people of Madhya Pradesh may well be condemned to suffer another five years of non-governance, lack of security, corruption and progressive regression under a government which, in all likelihood, is going to be of the same colour in 2019 as the present one. Unless the Opposition gets its act together and a miracle unfolds. — INFA

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