Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, don’t forget JP (Sunday Guardian)
Laws brought in by Nitish Kumar to eliminate the consumption of alcohol in Bihar will fail as completely as similar laws have in Gujarat.
The death toll in the illicit liquor tragedy in Bihar is likely to approach two dozen, and the responsibility for each of these vests with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has decided to follow the Gujarat Model and implement prohibition in his state. Indeed, the law passed by “JP follower” Nitish is so toxic in its colonial nature, so anti-citizen in its provisions, that it makes those drafted by the UPA’s Draconian Duo, Palaniappan Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal, look benign by comparison. All that is needed to jail an entire family in the state from where Jayaprakash Narayan came, is to plant a bottle of alcohol in their house, or better still, incentivise the local police into claiming in writing that a bottle of fruit juice in the cupboard was in reality gin or whisky. In the Philippines, President Roderigo Duterte has launched a “War on Drugs”, but even that strongman acknowledges the need for sensitivity by only making almost all addicts simply sign a statement that from then onwards, they will abstain from the consumption of narcotics. Despite such forbearance, jails in Manila are getting crammed with those picked up by the police in the harsh enforcement climate begun by the new head of state. Many of those incarcerated will get transformed into virulent anti-socials, as prisons in the Philippines (as also those in the “world’s largest democracy”, India) are academies designed by their procedures and conditions to transform previously mild individuals into hardened criminals and psychotics. As the prevalence of illegal sex and drink in Saudi Arabia, Iran and other hyper-restrictive countries testifies, man-made laws are useless in altering human behaviour. The Kerala official who pointed out that looking at a lady for 14 seconds would ensure jail time was correct, as the same could now, under the Verma Law, be prosecuted as “stalking”. This columnist goes for a walk in surroundings not always denuded of people, and it is a chore to ensure that there is enough distance between himself and the many members of the fair sex who are going about their stroll at the same time, so as to avoid contact and the possibility that any female individual inadvertently touched will scream and call for both a television reporter and a policeman to ensure two decades of legal hell for such an offence.
The soul of JP must be very, very unhappy at the way his self-proclaimed admirers are becoming as adept in using the police as the Viceroys were, or Indira Gandhi during 1975-77.
The J.S. Verma Sex Offender Laws have not in the slightest prevented the abuse and exploitation of women, including those that are very young, while the laws brought in by Nitish Kumar to eliminate the consumption of alcohol in Bihar will fail as completely as similar laws have in Gujarat. Long ago, Ram Jethmalani sought as Law Minister to de-colonise the legal system in India by doing away with the many that reek of the colonial impulse. Not surprisingly, he was removed by the then PM from the job, for it is the civil society-phobic cast of the colonial governance model which ensures the flood of bribes and privilege that continues to curse this country seven decades into its post-1947 existence. What Nitish Kumar’s legislation will do is to give a boost to the mafias controlling the illicit liquor trade, and to kill through hooch those resident in Bihar. Those not killed will become slowly poisoned and diseased by the consumption of hooch that kills over time and not—in a more merciful manner—instantly. Looking at the promiscuous use of police power to imprison and to harass through the legal process that remains the fashion in India, no matter who gets elected to power, it is clear that the soul of Jayaprakash Narayan must be very, very unhappy at the way his self-proclaimed admirers are becoming as adept in using the police as the Viceroys were, or Indira Gandhi during 1975-77. There is very little difference in terms of attitudes towards the colonial governance system of either the Congress party or those it sent to prison during the Emergency. It was expected of Arvind Kejriwal that he would make improvements in RTI a priority by opening up the files of the Delhi government. These days, even Rahul Gandhi is talking the language of democratic change and enhancement of freedoms, words that would have been taken more seriously had he not re-nominated Sibal and Chidambaram to the Rajya Sabha. Clearly, freedoms come first while in opposition, while the police and other instruments of the state regain their supremacy when in government.
The soul of JP must be very, very unhappy at the way his self-proclaimed admirers are becoming as adept in using the police as the Viceroys were, or Indira Gandhi during 1975-77. Narendra Modi has talked of “minimum government” and this is certainly the only way India can be rescued from chaos. However, for this to become a reality, the PM will need to look beyond the Lutyens Lok in the matter of bringing into high office those that can help him lift the governance system to 21st century standards in place of the 19th century level it has been stuck in for the past century and three-quarters. As for Modi’s principal opponents in 2019, Arvind Kejriwal will need to reflect more on Aruna Roy and her passion for open government, while Nitish Kumar needs to implement JP’s philosophy of primacy to civil society in his official actions. Avoiding transparency in governance or jailing entire families for a technical offence is not the way such professed critics of the Emergency are expected to trod.