As Chief Minister Adityanath completes 100 days in office on June 25, the Uttar Pradesh government is preparing to broadcast a list of its achievements, even as the Opposition intends to corner it on its failure to maintain the rule of law in the state.
Though Adityanath started out with a bang – for instance, working more than 12 hours a day work in his first month in office, and attending at least 80 presentations by various government departments that outlined the road map for the future – his administration has been lax in implementing the government’s decisions. In these past 100 days, it may have had the odd success, but it has failed to deliver on several counts.
The Opposition is particularly concerned about the rule of law in the state, which has seen incidents of inter-caste and communal clashes, moral policing, as well as attacks on the police by Hindutva groups since Adityanath took over as chief minister on March 19. Given that one of the BJP’s poll planks was the restoration of law and order in the state – Adityanath has said that his government inherited “jungle raj” from the previous Samajwadi Party government – the incidents have given the Opposition a handle to beat the BJP with.
“Time can be given for development issues but no reprieve can be given for the deteriorating law and order situation in the state,” said Ramgovind Choudhary, leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly.
Here is recap of the announcements, achievements and controversies that marked the BJP government’s first 100 days in Uttar Pradesh.
Farm loan waiver
The Adityanath government decided to waive farm loans worth Rs 36,000 crore during its first Cabinet meeting, on April 4, in Lucknow. Nearly 86 lakh small and marginal farmers were expected to benefit from this move. However, the waiver has still not been implemented, and farmers have not received any benefit yet. After several farmers complained that they received recovery notices from banks for not repaying their loans, Adityanath chaired a high-level meeting on June 9 during which banks were instructed not to send such notices to farmers eligible for the loan waiver. The state government has now said that it would implement the waiver after a budgetary allocation for it was made, which is expected in July. The Opposition has criticised the delay.
Crackdown on slaughterhouses
One of the first decisions of the Uttar Pradesh government was to close illegal slaughter houses. It was taken on March 22, three days after Adityanath took charge, and later passed by the Cabinet on April 4. Since most cities in Uttar Pradesh do not have official slaughter houses in the private sector – it has mainly been an unorganised industry – and most government-owned abattoirs were shut down as they did not fulfil licence norms, the crackdown led to a shortage of meat – buffalo meat in particular but also mutton and chicken – in the market. Those at the receiving end were mostly Muslims engaged in the meat business. Despite several protests and a strike called by meat sellers, the illegal slaughter houses remain closed.
Petrol pump scam
In the last week of April, the state’s Special Task Force unearthed a scam in which petrol pumps cheated customers by giving them less fuel than they paid for. Those behind the scam did this by rigging meters and fuel dispensers using remote controlled devices and electronic chips. The Special Task Force inspected several dozen fuel outlets in the state, and sealed the fuel-dispensing machines that were found to be rigged. This drive won the government praise. However, it eventually slowed down after petrol pump owners threatened to go on strike. At the end of May, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court rapped the state for being lenient towards owners of petrol pumps involved in the scam. It asked why the government was only sealing individual fuel dispensing units that were found to be rigged, and not the entire petrol pump. It also asked the government to make public the names of the fuel outlets found to be cheating their customers.
Harassment of couples
Another early decision taken by the Adityanath government, and approved during its April 4 Cabinet meeting, was to ask the police to crack down on men harassing women in public spaces through what it referred to as “anti-Romeo squads”. This resulted in criticism that the move was aimed at curbing Hindu-Muslim relationships, and led to large-scale incidents of couples being harassed by the police. According to official records, in the two months from March 22 to May 22, anti-Romeo squads checked nearly 2.07 lakh people, warned 3.38 lakh people, registered 538 cases and took action against 1,264 persons. Following complaints that the police were using the anti-Romeo squads to indulge in moral policing, the state police chief issued an advisory saying that the force should not harass couples sitting in coffee shops and parks, or humiliate them by punishing them. With time the drive has lost steam.
Law and order issues
One of the complaints that the BJP repeatedly levied against the former Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party government was that it was unable to maintain law and order. Adityanath’s government seems to be struggling on this front too. Sometimes, it is its own party members at the forefront of violations of law and order.
For instance, on April 21, FIRs were filed against BJP MP Raghav Lakhanpal and 300 other unidentified protestors in connection with clashes that broke out in western Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur when they took out a procession through a communally sensitive area despite being denied permission for it. Later, they attacked the home of Luv Kumar, the Senior Superintendent of Police, during a protest march. The action taken: the government transferred the police officer.
In Agra, on April 22, members of the Bajrang Dal barged into police station after members of their group were arrested following an altercation with the police at another police station. They also assaulted a police officer. As in the Saharanpur case, the action taken was the transfer of Agra Senior Superintendent of Police Preetinder Singh.
On May 5, one person was killed and at least 25 Dalit homes were set on fire in clashes between Thakurs and Dalits in Saharanpur. The issue is still simmering. This was the first time that violence between the two castes was reported on such a large scale. On May 9, the Bhim Army, a Dalit organisation, held a large meeting to protest against the torching of Dalit homes. This meeting saw clashes between Dalits and the police after which the state administration cracked down on the group.
Then in Bulandshahr, on May 30, members of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, an organisation founded by Adityanath, allegedly lynched an elderly Muslim man for his suspected role in the elopement of a Hindu-Muslim couple.
There have been several other high-profile incidents – a double murder in Mathura on May 15, the May 25 assault on eight members of a family on the Jewar-Bulandshahr highway in which one person was killed and four women allegedly gangraped, and a triple murder at Sitapur on June 6 – that have challenged the BJP’s assertion that it would improve law and order once it came to power. All this has given Opposition leaders like Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati fodder to attack the state government with.
Investigation corruption or vendetta politics?
In April, the state announced that it would institute inquiries into various development projects initiated by the previous Akhilesh Yadav government, such as the Gomti River Front project, the Agra-Lucknow Expressway project, and the scheme to build boundary walls around graveyards. In 2007, Chief Minister Mayawati had adopted a similar tactic when she ordered that the material used to construct Lohia Path, a six-lane road in Lucknow built by the previous Mulayam Singh Yadav regime, be subjected to laboratory tests to ascertain its quality. Nothing emerged from that probe barring the suspension of a few officials.
On April 30, at a function in Deoria, Adityanath announced that his government would make all roads in Uttar Pradesh pothole free by June 15. However, no financial allocation was made to back this announcement. Later, the chief minister even ordered that a Sadak Nirman Nigam be set up to maintain the state’s roads. However, employees of the Public Works Department, which usually carries out road repairs, opposed this, and the issue is now on the back burner.
Going by the state’s massive road network and the multiple departments involved, the pothole-free promise was always going to be difficult to fulfil – the initiative has not met its target. According to data from multiple state departments, as on June 13, only 73,631.79 km (or 60%) of the state’s 1,21,034 km of roads were declared to be pothole free. In Adityanath’s home district, Gorakhpur, only 74% of the roads have been repaired. With the monsoon arriving in the state, the drive has petered out. With residents of Uttar Pradesh posting photographs of potholes on social media, the Opposition has targeted the state government for its failure on this front.
Procuring grains from farmers
The Adityanath government has excelled in purchasing wheat from farmers. During its April 4 Cabinet meeting, it decided to procure 80 lakh metric tonnes of wheat during the 2017-’18 rabi marketing season. It subsequently procured nearly 35 lakh metric tonnes of wheat, paying over Rs 5,500 crore to around 7.54 lakh farmers. But though the volume of wheat procured was nearly four times the quantity acquired by the previous government in the corresponding season last year, the government could not meet its target of 80 lakh metric tonnes before the procurement season ended on June 15.
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