The Big Story: Carte blanche
The authorities were given a warning. On June 29, the wife of notorious gangster Prem Prakash Singh, better known as Munna Bajrangi, held a press conference to warn against a conspiracy to kill her husband, even though he was in custody in Baghpat jail in Uttar Pradesh. Despite this, Bajrangi was attacked and shot dead following a brawl with members of another criminal gang.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, known to his followers as Yogi, has ordered a judicial inquiry into the matter and said that a jailor has been suspended. Later, the state’s Director General of Police OP Singh said there had been no laxity in the department’s efforts to provide adequate protection to Bajrangi. Yet he was killed.
This is the state of Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh. The firebrand Hindutva nationalist (who has himself been accused of a number of heinous offences) vowed after coming to power that he would stamp out crime in the state. In November 2017, Adityanath said at a rally that criminals would either be jailed or killed in encounters. His police department seems to have taken this statement very seriously.
Reports from his first 10 months in power found that there had been 921 “encounters”, a euphemism for extra-judicial killings by the police, in which 33 people had died. The government received a notice from the National Human Rights Commission after questions were asked about the exact nature of these encounters. In the 10 months between April 2017 and February 2018, the Uttar Pradesh registered a whopping 365 cases of judicial deaths per the human rights authority, much more than double the number recorded in the next state on the list.
Initial indications suggest that such actions do not deter crimes – Uttar Pradesh recorded the largest number of crimes over the same period, and an increase in a number of specific crimes compared to previous years. Yet that is beside the point. By giving police personnel the feeling that they are empowered to go beyond the bounds of the law, Uttar Pradesh has substituted one set of crimes for another, with even less chance of justice because the authorities are unlikely to act against their own. The Bajrangi case is even more serious. The government was told, publicly, that something like this might happen, and yet he died regardless. If such is the fate of a person to whom the police claimed to have given adequate protection, what is an ordinary citizen supposed to expect?
The Big Scroll:
- Abhishek Dey reports on an unsettling pattern of custodial deaths in Delhi.
- “By denying access to UNHRC since 2016, the Modi government has risked international opprobrium of our security forces, especially the army, as a cruel occupying force,” writes Vappala Balachandran in the Indian Express. “We have also lost an opportunity to present evidence on Pakistan’s complicity to a UN body.”
- “The politicisation of transfers has inevitably undermined teacher accountability,” writes Yamini Aiyar in the Hindustan Times. “Networking and building relationships with politicians is for teachers a necessary survival tactic and therefore a legitimate activity, relegating teaching to the background. Teachers, on their part, have used their access to politicians to game the system.”
- “Put more simply, ‘one nation, one election’ is anti-democratic,” writes Vivek Dehejia in Mint. “For why should the election calendar in any given state be synchronized with that of the Centre? Doing so would rob a state of one of the essential elements of Westminster democracy.”
Amrita Gupta writes on how India may one day run out of chocolate – and the blame will be on all of us.
“It is true that when compared to other parts of the world, cacao in India is actually grown quite sustainably, which helps mitigate the effects of climate change on the crop. And even though the country contributes just a speck to global stocks (less than 0.5%, to be precise), we’re growing more cacao than ever before. The trees seem to thrive in the near-tropical southern states, usually on small, biodiverse landholdings. Homegrown cacao is often grown under the canopy of coconut or areca nut, and it’s not uncommon to find banana, pepper and nutmeg on the same plot of land as well.
‘With monocrops, the plant suffers, and the soil suffers,’ said Dr Varanashi Krishna Moorthy, a veteran organic cacao farmer in the Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka. ‘Intercropped cacao is better for the environment, and it protects the farmer against crop failures and price fluctuations too.’ On and around Varanashi Farms, cacao grows in near-forest conditions, like the shade-grown jungle crop it is.
In the Idukki district of Kerala, too, cacao farmers are working to improve their growing practices and obtain organic certification. Around 150 of them sell their cacao to small-scale post-harvest processors Luca Beltrami and Ellen Taerwe of GoGround Beans & Spices, who, for the past three years, have refined the drying and fermenting process to deliver more finely flavoured cacao beans and nibs.”