Listen to the home minister

Listen to the home minister

On the face of it, there may be little that is common between the demand for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the murder of a government engineer in Uttar Pradesh and a missive to chief ministers by Union home minister P. Chidambaram 12 days ago.

Chidambaram’s letter requested state governments to take eight steps that his ministry thinks are important in the revamping of security systems in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks. As reported in Mint on Thursday, state governments have been less than pleased with the minister’s “demands".

Among other things, the letter requested the chief ministers to ensure the creation of an analysis group within the state intelligence unit. This group, if formed, would be expected to work in two shifts totalling 16 hours every day to receive, collate and analyse intelligence inputs and disseminate them to the Union government. Another recommendation was to draw up a plan by the director general of police of the state to rid the state capital, large cities and towns of the state of organized crime groups, loan and land sharks and extortion gangs.

For anyone familiar with the political and law and order situation that prevails in Indian states, the reaction of the state governments is predictable, if not anticipated. Under normal circumstances, these requests would have no substance to them. But the manner in which criminal elements have become an integral feature of our political landscape, it is hardly surprising that no state government is willing to tackle them. In elections, in “activities" that cannot be done legally and for many other sundry requirements, these criminals are an essential feature of politics.

In this state of affairs, a basic feature of the criminal system has been forgotten. These criminals don’t owe their loyalty to one master even if he is democratically elected and may be heading a state government. The resources of criminals are fungible and often go to the highest bidder. Often, these “consumers" of crime are terrorists who require local logistical support to engage in violence. Tackling that—not interfering in the states’ constitutional rights—is the intent of Chidambaram’s letter.

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