India has celebrated 60th Republic Day on January 26, 2009. The people are getting aware of their constitutional rights as the democratic process is getting mature day by day. However, the life has not changed much for the majority of the tribals acrossthe country.
Instead, it has become difficult for the tribals to maintain their livelihood as their land is being snatched by the establishment due to the rapid industrialization. The story is not different with the tribalsof Odisha too as they are loosing their land due to the industrialization.
Odisha has huge natural wealth but its people are poor and most of these poor are tribals in whose habitats that wealth is stored. It is this wealth that has become curse on them above and over their economic and social exploitation. In the process of rapid industrialization, tribals are also facing threat of being forcibly displaced, resulting in law and order problem in their areas. Tribals feel neglected and cheated as the administration appears to work in favour of powerful industrial and mining corporations
Under this circumstances, Police has an important role to play to ensure that the faith of the poor tribals on our constitution remains in tact, but the behavior of the Odisha police is not satisfactory and mostly negative while dealing with the tribals.
As if the communal riots in shape of Kandhmal are not enough, expanding presence of naxalites to newer areas and increasing threat of terror attacks from across the border has expanded their role. It is not only the constitutional duty of the state to maintain law and order but also to ensure that lives and properties of the people are protected. As such, it is expected that the state government makes enough arrangement to keep efficient police force that works at its best to live up to the expectations of the people of the state without coming under any pressure with full honesty and sincerity. Registering complains of rich or poor alike, without any discrimination and conduct timely investigation to ensure delivery of justice.
However the ground reality is otherwise. Except some exceptions, Odisha police is not only arrogant but also have different yard sticks to measure crimes depending on the person with whom they deal with. Rich and politically powerful persons manage to go scot free despite committing serious crimes, poor innocent persons are made to suffer for no fault and end up in running from pillar to post, spending their precious little hard earned money in legal matters
Odisha Police has lived far below the expectations of the people. The general opinion of the people on police will be that as a corrupt, inefficient and biased. This is the truth; why people try to keep away from police, raise their eyebrows even at the visit of police in the neighborhood. Transparency International, a worldwide organization that fights corruption has ranked Indian Police Department as the most corrupt department of the country. The situation in Odisha is not different.
Beginning with traffic related offences to the local gangs of criminals, dons, kidnapers, thieves, pocket picketers and also economic offenders and white collared criminals no body can survive without the help of the police force.The very fact that such gangs are operating freely without any fear of being caught and punished have made Odisha their favorite hunting ground. Mafias operating in Mining, Timber and other forest products; Killer doctors conspiring with Medical labs owners who have mercilessly killed thousands of female babies in the womb of their mother; Fake medicine racketeers operating freely in nexus with officials of the drug department pushing them to death; Illicit liquor manufacturers operating with chain of retailers causing repeated poisonous hooch tragedies that takes premature lives are enough to expose the reality that exists. Besides there are gangs of Gamblers, Cheaters, Thieves, Extortionists and other petty criminals almost all over the state. Naxalites expanding wings to newer areas is another proof of the poor state of policing in Orissa.
Lack of vigilance has resulted in thousands of Bangladeshi making Odisha their permanent home illegally. Two Bangladeshi fish trawlers acting heavier on local fishermen on the Odisha coast is a very recent experience that increases the job of the state police with the experience of Mumbai terror attacks from the sea route. When facts are known to the men on the street, how can it escape the notice of the state police? But the irony is that when such illegal immigrants should be behind the bars, they have managed to enter in to the voters list of the country. But there is no political will to crack down on those staying illegally.
With the increased industrial and mining activities, police have additional task to deal with the situation of unrest of the farmers and others who use their democratic rights to protest against the injustices caused to them, be it in the matter of displacement, increasing pollution or even try to protect their constitutional rights. When the need is to bring in drastic changes in the faulty mining policy, Relief and Resettlement policy to make pro people and ensure that pollution norms are strictly complied with. However, authorities ignore the same in the name of pursuing rapid industrialization, but police has either cracked on people who protest at the illegalities or remained a silent spectator. There are enough examples to exhibit anti people face of the Odisha Police.
Registering complain as First Information Report (FIR) is mandatory on the part of the police. Take Sundergarh district to exposes the truth. Despite hundreds of cases in which tribals have fallen victims to the atrocities committed by rich and politically powerful non tribals, most of their complains are not registered whereas on the contrary false complains are registered against the poor tribals who are pushed to jails on false charges. All this happens despite tribals have legal protection available to them in shape of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act on their side.
Recently, the tantrum shown by the owner, a non-tribal, of a metal firm has become the matter of discussion in Sundargarh district. They have established a 100 TPD sponge iron plant at Khairban village, Latikata Block of Sundergarh District. By filing false information, they not only managed the mandatory environmental clearances but also managed to crush the democratic rights of the villagers with the help of Brahamni Tarang Police. Govt. primary school located within 500 meters is shown as located beyond 1.5 KM from the plant.
Christina and few other tribal women who protested plying of heavily loaded truck on the narrow village road is pushed by the car driven by the owner of the metal company himself. As if this is not enough, he gets out of the car and pulls the lady by hair and clothes to push her out of the road, tearing her blouse in the process. Christina's complain is not registered but on the contrary she is picked up in the middle of night by the police.
On May day, drunken supervisor of drives the truck in to the house of Mahesh Mahali who was to marry few days and damages the house that is located at the entrance of the same narrow road, house is damaged, villagers protests. Nor the truck is seized nor the unlicensed driver is arrested but innocent villagers are rounded up.
Seventy year old Sukra Mahali denies to sale away his farm land but the land is forcibly grabbed. All his efforts to register even the FIR have failed.D.O. Letter of Minister of State for Home, Government of India, written to the Hon'ble Chief Minster also failed. Instead police calls Sukra Mahali to the police station forcing him to sale away his land to the plant owners.
Patras Ekka is severely assaulted for his only fault that he denied to pay Rs.2/- to the illegally run cycle stand owner but 17 tribal youth who sat in the Kinjirkela PS demanding registering the complain are seriously assaulted with iron rods, stones, sticks and what not within the police station premises by the cycle stand owner and his musclemen in presence of police. Ajit Kujur who received 70 stitches on his head is labeled as absconder.Where as illicit liquor vendors, dacoits etc are termed as saviors of police. The result is a false case against the victims that they attacked the police station. The height of the wrong is practiced by SP, Sundergarh who in the official communiqué to the National Commission of Schedule Tribe, stated that Tirkey, Kerketta, Ekka, Toppo, Kujur are all people belonging to Schedule Caste.
In another case, the Tribals at village Budakata under Kutra PS have fallen victims of a sponge iron company at Balanda also under Brahmani Tarang PS, under the influence of another Sponge Iron Factory, 111 tribals were booked under different cases. Lanjiberna, Lamlai, Kansbahal, Bilaigarh, Kuarmunda, Birmitrapur, Rajgangpur story is same every where. The most recent is the matter of Tutu Kishan who was called at Rajgaganpur PS and forced to sign three blank papers believed to get his forcible consent to give consent to sale his land to a Orissa based Cement company. Hundreds of false cases are filed on the victims so as to save the skin of real culprits who are the wealthy plant owners who have money and reach to buy favours.
Twelve Kilometer long overhead conveyor belt to transport lime stone over few villages is being constructed on land acquired from tribals without obtaining positive resolve at the mandatory village council meeting under Panchayat Extension of Schedule Area Act, 1996.(PESA) Villagers protests is crushed with heavy hand. Sushil Lakra has been killed in a recent incident by the security staff of the Cement company at Lanjiberna. Within the closed door under lock and key so called village council meeting is held at Kutunia grossly in violation to PESA, police remains a silent spectator to the misdeeds.12 year old tribal boy is tortured third degree including pouring petrol to his anus by Ragunathpalli PS, forcing him to confess a crime he never committed or the custodial few months before at Brahmani tarang PS; Assault by a petty BJD leader on tribals at Vedvyas few days back, dumping of solid waste on the farm lands and unbearable pollution by a series of sponge iron plants are some of the matters that are mentioned here. The list is long. If this is the story of one district only, it is any body's imagination what could be the story of the entire state.
The dual face of the police stands well exposed at Kalinga Nagar where nine contingents of armed police swung in to actions; unleashed brutalities killing 13 tribals and injuring many in January, 2006 but no case is registered against Tata Steel on whose soil light intensity land mines injured few tribals.
The need is for complete transformation of the police department to make it efficient and accountable force; restrict duty hours from 24 x 7 to 8 to 10 hours on 6 days a week; create an environment that enables them to discharge their duties honestly and with full sincerity without coming under any political interference and also substantial increase in the budgetary support.