Law against property destruction

The State Government is contemplating to bring a Bill in the next session of the State Assembly which will make destruction of property, whether public or private, during political agitations an offence punishable by a heavy fine. It is not yet known whether failure to pay will lead to the imprisonment of the offender(s). The idea behind the proposed law is laudable. Wanton destruction of property on any pretext cannot be supported. But when passions run high, agitated mobs do not behave rationally. In big cities like Kolkata there are CCTV cameras on thoroughfares and in important buildings like government offices, banks and hotels. This makes it easy to identify the individuals indulging in violence. But in rural areas, such as Bhangar, there are no CCTVs. Identifying the offenders beyond doubt will be difficult.
The best way to prevent destruction of property is to create civic sense. In Kolkata, once known as the michhil nagari or the city of processions, burning of buses and trams during political agitations have become very rare, though not totally stopped. In the Bhangar troubles it has been alleged by the police and the political leadership that Naxalite, Maoist and even terrorist elements got involved. If so the local leadership of the ruling party and the Intelligence department should have been aware of it and taken timely steps to prevent what happened. It has been alleged that for weeks politically motivated propaganda against the proposed power sub-station had been carried on in the area. There was no attempt by the political leadership to counteract this propaganda and foil the provocative agenda of the trouble-makers. The Intelligence also obviously failed to alert the Government in time. A stitch in time saves nine is old wisdom.
Usually an explosive political situation builds up over time. Measures to defuse the situation by removing the causes of unrest or grievance and countering mischievous propaganda should be taken right at the beginning rather than after the situation has reached a flashpoint. It may be necessary to revise official policies which are obviously wrong or unpopular rather than allow interested elements to fish in troubled waters. Such corrective measures can be taken by the ruling party when it has live contact with the people. When the political leadership loses touch with the people, interested elements gets the opportunity to create troubles as in Singur and Nandigram. It is always better to prevent the commission of an offence rather than to penalize the offenders after the offence has been committed.

Tuesday, 31 January, 2017