Punish the mafia

The killing of a young IPS officer, Narendra Kumar Singh, in Morena district in Madhya Pradesh last week again exposes the increasing risks honest and committed officials are facing in enforcing the law of the land.

He was crushed under a speeding tractor which was illegally transporting quarried stones. He had taken his job seriously and even within a few weeks of his taking charge as sub-divisional officer in Banmore in Morena, had cracked down on the rampant illegal quarrying in the area and taken on the mafia that controls the activity. He had confiscated many vehicles which were engaged in illegal quarrying and filed cases. It is yet to be proved whether the tractor driver who ran over him when challenged had links with the mafia or was acting alone.

But there is no doubt that Narendra Kumar was attacked for trying to prevent an illegal activity. The same day another IPS officer was also beaten up by goons of the liquor mafia when he was trying to stop illegal sale of liquor in another district in Madhya Pradesh.

Illegal mining of coal, iron ore, sand and stones has thrived in most states from Karnataka to Jharkhand and much of the administration and the political leadership is complicit in it. It is the political patronage and protection that the members of the mafia involved in these businesses enjoy that emboldens them to defy and even attack the few upright officers who challenge them. Illegal quarrying has flourished in Madhya Pradesh with help from politicians. Among  the people who attacked the officer who challenged the illegal sale of liquor were supporters of a BJP leader. But it is known that leaders of all parties are involved in the illegal activities.

Attacks on those who perform their duty demoralise the few other conscientious officers. Enquiries are routinely ordered but they often  become farcical exercises with little follow-up action. The uproar after an official, Yashwant Sonawane, was burnt to death by the oil mafia in Manmad in Maharashtra has died down and the business is back to normal. Before that Satyendra Dubey and  Shanmughan Manjunath had lost their lives trying to expose corruption in government.

It is a terrible comment on the moral fibre of a society and the strength of its legal, administrative and political system if individuals who expose and fight corruption and wrong-doing can only become martyrs.

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