How bulldozer becomes the most iconic weapon against land mafia’s illegal encroachments in Uttar Pradesh
The bulldozer has been put to ingenious use in Uttar Pradesh and now the Madhya Pradesh government has also announced that those involved in crime against women will be suitably dealt with by the bulldozer strategy
Almost everybody is today familiar with the ubiquitous bulldozer, the versatile machine that has allegedly been weaponised in recent months! It enjoys and competes with the immensely popular and iconic Ferrari, in terms of social media presence. The bulldozer has been put to ingenious use in Uttar Pradesh and now the Madhya Pradesh government has also announced that those involved in crimes against women will be suitably dealt with by the bulldozer strategy. Obviously any operation or drive launched has to be within the ambit of the law. Hence, anything that happens in a whimsical manner or in a knee-jerk fashion is most likely to have disastrous consequences, leading to public outrage and possibly administrative and legal action.
The versatile bulldozer has been put to effective administrative use in the last four years, leading to an unambiguous message to the underworld, the crime syndicates and the mafia that their ill-gotten immovable property is no longer safe — such assets are under the real threat of being razed to the ground. The first obvious question is: What are the legal provisions under which these stringent measures are taken?
To an average observer, it appears that it is most draconian and blatantly autocratic, bereft of any legal merit, especially in a few sensational cases like the one of gangster Vikas Dube, whose property in Kanpur Dehat was suitably addressed. On the allegations of high handedness, the police responded by stating that this was done to search weapons, explosives, arms and ammunition. Needless to mention, the committee led by Justice BS Chauhan and KL Gupta was satisfied and convinced with this argument and gave a clean chit to the local officers who pursued the case with utmost vigour.
The bulldozer today has almost become a vehicle of tremendous veneration to the extent that many parties are using it as a subsidiary poll symbol and miniatures are being freely distributed for publicity and gaining political mileage and rightfully so because the bulldozer is the basis of innumerable success stories, both genuine and imaginary. The bulldozer was used very effectively, primarily to remove public nuisance and obstructions earlier, but also as an effective tool against the spoils of crime belonging to the land mafia and hardened criminals. This experiment was an instant hit and won the hearts and minds of the public at large.
Indeed, this positive publicity yielded political dividends and Madhya Pradesh was soon to announce that they would be using this machine to bring the underworld down to its knees. This is easier said than done, because in such operations, the requirements of the law will have to be followed meticulously. Any flaw can have far-reaching consequences, both in terms of negative publicity and legal fallout.
When it comes to the actual act of demolition, it has to be borne in mind that demolitions can happen within the scope and provisions of law, and not otherwise. In most cases, such illegal constructions are brazen encroachments of and built on valuable government land. The other targeted category is of such cases where all channels of appeal have been exhausted by the complainant, and the authorities concerned, primarily the revenue and municipal authorities, operating under the provisions of various demolition laws, as also Section 133 CrPC, are empowered to remove obstructions, public nuisances, etc.
Municipal laws have their own standard operating procedures in respect of demolition; of course, special interest groups would like to believe that the decision to demolish any property is invariably one-sided and perverse, little realising that all such actions are in the purview of judicial scrutiny and can be questioned in courts of law, regarding the circumstances of demolition, because anything that is not procedurally correct can seriously jeopardise the careers of the demolition team members. Therefore, absolute discretion is the better part of valour for ground-level personnel!
It is common knowledge that various detractors question the authority and legality of the police taking such action against hardened criminals. It must be borne in mind that as a state policy, the district authorities work as a team to identify the encroachments and those fit for demolition. The demolition drill is very elaborate, incorporating service of notices, photography and videography of operations. Experienced and composite teams consist of the police in front, with the presence of magistrates and assisted by lady officers. On the face of it, the police seemingly play a lead role. But in reality, it is the affected government departments like Forest, Railways, PWD, etc, whose lands and buildings have been encroached and usurped, are the true complainants.
The question now arises: Why is there a sudden spurt in the use of bulldozers? The answer is simple. Perhaps, the earlier setups were either compromised, looked the other way, or had a soft corner for the land grabbers. In any case, this is one measure that has gone down so well with the public that the sale of bulldozers has skyrocketed. Bulldozers have become synonymous with a firm, no-nonsense administration, enhancing public confidence and improving the morale of the administration, while giving the fear of God in the hearts and minds of the dons!
It is reported that the government of Uttar Pradesh was able to reclaim property worth Rs 1,800 from illegal occupation, which seems to be just the tip of the iceberg, because it is difficult to find a single district or department where illegal encroachment and construction have not assumed epidemic proportions. In this age of technology, it is easy to have digitised maps and a system of drone and CCTV surveillance to collect real-time information in respect of landholding and attempted encroachments. Thus there is immense scope for immediate and effective intervention wherever there is a reasonable apprehension of encroachment; this presupposes a high level of alertness, professionalism and integrity of the highest order.
It is to the credit of the existing ecosystem of reclaiming lost government land and property that this aspect of administration enjoys very high priority. It is also well-known that most persons who have transgressed the rule of law have also indulged in illegal constructions, and it is here that they give an opportunity to the law enforcement agencies to subject them to anti-encroachment drives because this is akin to giving an official invitation to the bulldozer operators!
It will be prudent, however, to give advance notice to encroachers to clear their illegal constructions within a given time frame. If there is defiance, then the district authorities and the police can go after them and take action as per law. After every anti-encroachment drive, the government should issue a detailed press release, mentioning all the aspects of the demolition operations. In the absence of any response from the opposite party, it was the painful duty of the administration and the police to demolish illegal monstrosities and restore public confidence.
Just and transparent action will invariably enhance the credibility of the administration and reduce the probability of false allegations being levelled against the field officers. People still fondly remember the sterling performance of the likes of Mehmood Butt, the then Administrator of Allahabad (current Prayagraj), 1968, and the legendary GR Khairnar, Deputy Commissioner, BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (1985), who were unsparing in the use of bulldozers but ensured systematic application of law and rules and become cult figures.
The writer is a former Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh. Views expressed are personal.
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