When the term ‘BIMARU’ was coined, few states were clubbed into the same. These states demonstrated sheer backwardness as compared to the other states in the country and comprised of MP, Rajasthan, Bihar and UP. (Bihar, UP and MP were undivided) Although this acronym was made in the 1980s, some states still seem to belong to this club. Rajasthan and MP are doing really well now under the BJP and may have paved the way to exit this infamous group. Bihar which was inflicted by the Jungle Raj of the RJD is well on course to development after Nitish Kumar rescued the state of its impervious lawlessness.
However, Uttar Pradesh remained isolated and still seemed to have donned the characteristics of the BIMARU tribe. This was attributed to many reasons. UP is the largest and the most populous state housing people of different caste and creed.
Along with the same, the political instability and the dominance of regional outfits have added to the mess. Regional players like Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav wrecked the prospects of the state and facilitated criminalization of politics. Lawlessness and lack of jobs loomed, as the youth were drawn towards crime. This created a pool or reservoir for the Mafia to recruit individuals and the Mafiosi started spreading its evil dominance in the state. UP is one of the worst to be affected by criminal elements and leaders such as Raja Bhaiya or DP Yadav started symbolizing the state.
2017 assembly elections in UP were a significant game changer. It not only marginalized regional political players but also handed a sweeping mandate to a national party such as the BJP. Political parties who were supporting goons were sidelined and Yogi Adityanath was surprisingly made the CM. CM Yogi since assuming office has taken a few radical steps to propel the state of UP on to the path of progress. Some of them have been landmark decisions and some have been deemed as controversial. Nevertheless, the state which grappled under the shadows of fear psychosis has started to breathe life. CM Yogi took some important decisions which demonstrated his acumen as a leader. Anti romeo squads to prevent eve teasing, farmer loan waiver, issuing deadlines to make UP pothole free, banning of Gutka and paan masala in govt offices, crackdown on illegal slaughter houses were some of the revolutionary steps taken by his govt after coming to power. One of the most nefarious elements harming UP was the Mafia that crippled the state functioning.
CM Yogi and his govt have taken a note of the same and very recently the state cabinet has passed the UPCOCA bill which is designed to take down the mafia and other criminal activities of the state.
The draft which was passed by the Yogi cabinet is made on the lines of Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act and its ambit is expected to tackle the vast networks of Mafia in the state. UPCOCA is further expected to give a shot in the arm to the existing Gangsters act in the state.
The following are the salient features of the bill which is expected to help fight organized crime syndicate in the state of UP.
Firstly, the bill is based on certain provisions of an act which was similarly enacted in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Many parallels can be drawn in between MCOCA bill which was applied in Maharashtra and the UPCOCA bill tabled by the Yogi cabinet. Both the bills have death penalties and establishment of special courts to try the cases. The permission to intercept wire, electronic or oral communication too is a feature in both laws.
Secondly, the law will encompass entire network of criminal and mafia ecosystem. The law has been constituted to cripple Land and mining mafia which is rampant in the state. The bill is broad based and covers crimes like kidnapping for ransom, illegal mining, manufacturing/sale of illicit liquor, acquiring contracts using muscle power, organized exploitation of forest produce, wildlife trade, fake medicines, grabbing properties and extortion. In this way, provisions of this law specifically mention the types and varieties of the Mafia it will curb.
Thirdly, the quantum of punishment is severe and the cases will be speeded by special courts. This is extremely important to create deterrence against the criminals who in previous administrations had hobnobbed with the ruling masters of the day. From a minimum sentence of three years, UPCOCA will endorse even capital punishments. It has recommended a fine of Rs 5 to 25 lakhs and also has extended the period of filing charge sheet from 90 days to 180 days. Various stringent procedures have been added such as attachment of the property of the accused during investigations and no police security to the accused especially those exhibiting political patronage. Police can follow communications of the suspects and the commissioner and the IG zone will jointly approve UPCOCA on the accused.
Fourthly, the bill proposes that politicians found abetting and protecting the mafia and organized crime will be stripped of their police protection and government security cover. This is the hardest hitting provision of the supposed law which is necessary to eliminate these parallel governments that are running in various sectors of the state. Along with this, police protection to witnesses and those giving evidence is also a part of the draft. This will hopefully eliminate witness intimidation and foster better crackdown on the criminals.
SP and its opposition partners have ferociously opposed the bill. They even cited the example of how Mayawati had misused POTA against her political adversaries like Raja Bhaiya. SP believes Yogi cabinet may misuse the same and has termed it as draconian. Nevertheless, the government has expressed confidence that checks are in place to prevent the misuse of the bill. For example it said that the property of the accused can only be attached with court permission and cases can be registered only once a two-member committee comprising the Divisional Commissioner and a DIG-rank officer gives its approval. However, mafia dons are closely associated with BSP and SP and so their opposition to the bill is understandable. On the contrary, SP even tried to communalize the bill by saying it’s against the Muslims.
The tremendous rise in criminal graph has necessitated the govt to take this laudable step. CM Yogi had remarked ’We have to match bullets with bullets’ and he has matched his thundering words with necessary actions. The state which was rotting under the guise of the Mafia-Polity nexus will finally be broken free of the same. The desire to make UP into an Uttam Pradesh is in full swing and UPCOCA is the foundation on which hopefully the state will prosper and progress.