Capt has to crack whip, or lose it to mafia
With the sun gaining warmth early this February, the Shiromani Akali Dal too seems to be stirring out of a long winter, one that actually started in March 2017. Over the past couple of weeks, its leadership has had something to say about nearly every issue — whether development, salaries, ‘goonda tax’, corruption, or Sikh concerns.It is always good for the state if the Opposition is active, and takes the government to task. But it is curious that the Akalis should find their spirit suddenly after remaining zapped for nearly an entire year over their stunning loss in the Assembly elections. So what might be the source of this confidence? Most likely, they have sensed a weakness in the opponent, in this case the government, which has faced a particularly tough time in the perception game over the recent months. SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, even at his lowest ebb, is sharp enough not to let an opportunity pass.The irony in Sukhbir Badal’s accusations and condemnations, however, cannot be missed. He is making noise over exactly the improprieties, irregularities, and misconduct that were raised to the level of an art during his tenure as Deputy Chief Minister, or de facto Chief Minister. The issues are precisely the ones that weighed heavy on people’s mind when they cast their vote — sand mining, ‘goonda tax’, liquor mafia.But there is one factor that the SAD can legitimately take objection to — that the Congress government did not have to work hard to evolve the mafia, nexus and nepotism that seem to be running the state. They inherited the procedures all worked out to the last illegitimate naka. All they had to do was replace the beneficiaries with those aligned to the Congress. In some cases, even old beneficiaries continued as long as they paid the right share. Congress affiliates have also been quick to increase the margins, as seen in the controversy over the Bathinda refinery ‘goonda tax’ collection, where the rates went up four-fold over the SAD period.Barring drugs and gangsters, people’s horror over the extent of rule by mafia over various resources and revenue channels has only increased over the past year. Policy measures and changes have either not been made, or have had no effect, in all businesses that are controlled by a licence or permit system, including sand, transport, cable, and liquor. Profiteering continues, either at the cost of the people or the government.One crucial element that underpins all such rackets is the police, without the help of which none of this can be sustained. The IPS cadre in the state was systematically sabotaged by the SAD-BJP government to protect its political interests. While many of those interests forced the police at the district level to co-opt in the rackets, several others — especially drugs and gangsters — flourished because of the lax policing that was the result of undermining of the police structure.Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh made a slight improvement in policing by restoring the fundamental structure, which has resulted in successes against crime too, but he has been unable to check the nexus at the lower levels of police with Congress cadres, including MLAs. And that is what continues to power the multifarious mafias, against which the Chief Minister is reported to have vent his frustration even in Cabinet meetings.