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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2429

Pay up or be killed

By Chandrahasan – Syndicate Features

The death of M.K. Gupta, a PWD engineer in Uttar Pradesh (UP) allegedly for his refusal to collect funds for the birthday celebrations of the BSP supremo Mayawati is not only a grave law and order related issue but also a commentary on how politics is merging with crime. Far too long has the nation been turning a blind eye to the mischievous practice of 'donations' and 'garlands' received by politicians from the public.

Everybody knows that these 'donations' are forced collections and have very little component of 'love and affection'. Over the years it has become a standard practice among politicians to collect money through various means—direct cash from companies and businessmen, ‘gifts’ from the public and, of course, from the elected representatives and other sundry small fries in their party as well as bureaucrats and policemen.

'Behenji' Mayawati’s fondness for wealth is as well known as her abrasive ways. Thanks to the media, which has pumped her ego by declaring as a politically correct prime ministerial material, she is unlikely to see anything wrong in her way of running her party affairs, including the practice of collecting ‘donations’ by force for her ostentatious birthday celebrations.

As has been suggested in reports after the death of engineer Gupta, officials are assigned hefty 'targets' for collecting money for her. Gupta was to asked to raise Rs 50 lakh and hand over the money to the local MLA who, in turn, was to give it to 'Behenji' as a token of his and his voters’ 'love and affection' for her.

The only way an official can collect that kind of cash 'voluntarily' is if word is spread among the business class and the rich that they have to be magnanimous in giving 'donations' for the chief minister or else face the wrath of the administration. It is either an official or a party functionary who is the conduit through which the voluntary donations are received.

But after the murder of Gupta it has become apparent that the voluntary donations do not flow smoothly and there are pockets of resistance. It could also be that there are officials who refuse to take up the kind of exercise apparently assigned to Gupta—collecting large funds from different sources for no legitimate cause.

It cannot be denied that there would be many officials who would probably not mind going around with the mission to collect funds for their 'netas'. Who is there to stop them from pocketing their own 'commission'? It suits both the politicians and the officials as money that comes as 'donation' goes into the pockets of both.

Time has come when this practice should be placed under closer scrutiny by the civil society. It is an open encouragement to many criminal activities: extortion or coercive collections of funds by misuse of authority by officials and politicians and use of blackmail or physical assault in case of refusal. It also brings many unscrupulous persons who contribute large funds to the centres of power.

To be fair to her, UP under Mayawati is not the only state where sections of bureaucracy and minor political leaders collect 'donations' for the 'party' and get rich at personal level. In Haryana this art was perfected long time ago when the leaders, particularly the chief ministers, would be frequently weighed in coins, currency notes and even gold and silver.

One chief minister who rose to a senior position at the Centre once displayed a portion of his valuable collection—'token of people’s love and affection'—on his lawns. The wares were spread over four or five 'charpoys' and included many 'crowns', swords, and odd pieces of jewellery. The value of that 'token' was several million rupees, needless to say.

It is no surprise that the bulk of ‘voluntary’ donations comes from certain businesses which generate a lot of black money and where profits are astronomical. The liquor and real estate businesses are considered to be among the most lucrative ones. Those who run these businesses command political clout in lieu of the liberal 'donations' that they make to demonstrate their 'love and affection' for the powers that be. After all, what are a few thousand rupees if it gives someone virtual immunity from certain cumbersome sections of the government machinery, especially its tax collecting and law and order enforcement agencies.

It can be anybody’s guess whether the BSP MLA, who has been arrested following the murder of Gupta, will really come to grief under the present dispensation in the state. In less than two years of Mayawati’s rule UP has reported more than half a dozen cases of atrocities allegedly committed by her party leaders on the members of the public. The law is reluctant or unwilling to take its course in UP.

Just a few weeks before the Gupta murder, the security guards of a brother of one the ministers in the state had incapacitated a 22-year-old youth and crushed his scooter in Agra for daring to ask the worthy to remove his car which was blocking the traffic. Nearly 2000 people witnessed the ‘drama’. Yet, the police refused to register a case. Another minister in UP, since sacked, was said to be involved in the murder of a woman.

The most discouraging aspect is the politicisation of crimes such as the murder of Gupta. One Opposition party, the Samajwadi Party, has loudly protested against the murder of Gupta and denounced the Mayawati administration for allowing the law and order situation in UP to deteriorate alarmingly. That sounds strange because the Samajwadi party administration, just before Mayawati, had made UP synonymous with lawlessness.

The Congress and some other parties in the Opposition are said to be muted in their protests because it would anger the numerically powerful Dalit community in the state, Mayawati’s primary support base. If a case that appears to be one of brazen murder cannot be fought fiercely by the Opposition then it deserves to stay in that position. It also shows that politicians of all hues have a vested interest in certain criminal acts that include murder, rape, extortion and what not. And our politicians talk about democracy and values like honesty.

- Asian Tribune -

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