‘Lulu Namaaz Row Shows Lucknow’s Fall To Hardliners’

Sharat Pradhan, a Lucknow citizen and eminent journalist, says it is sad that Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb has given way to Namaaz-Sundar Kand conflict

Lucknow, the city of Nawabs, once known for its adab, tehzeeb, and communal harmony is gradually losing it all to hardliners. One glaring example is the recent Lulu Mall namaaz controversy, which I found laughable to say the least.

Let us recall what happened: A few people were seen offering namaaz in the newly-opened shopping mall. A video of the incident was widely shared on social media. This enraged some Hindu right-wing activists so much that they tried to recite Hanuman Chalisa and Sundar Kand (a chapter from the Ramayana) on the same premises in reprisal. The media played it up to the gallery and it captured headlines for weeks. This is plain absurd? And all of this happening in Lucknow makes it even more reprehensible.

According to one view, the namaaz offered in the mall was a violation of the ban on religious activities in public places. However, the mall is a private property and in this case, the police can’t take any action unless a complaint is filed by the owner of the property. So, the UP Police made the mall administration file a complaint in order to take action against those who offered namaaz in the mall.

In this whole controversy, the role of police administration is intriguing. Since the mall was inaugurated by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath himself in the presence of its owner Yusuf Ali, the UP Police couldn’t take their usual course of action – bashing Muslims. They tried to monkey-balance it by acting against the people from both Hindu and Muslim communities.

ALSO READ: ‘Those Pitting Hanuman Chalisa Against Azan Aren’t Pious People’

This controversy is also the result of an entire build-up which was created much before the mall was inaugurated. Fake messages were circulating on social media and WhatsApp groups that the mall will employ only Muslim boys and Hindu girls, an attempt to fan the Love-jihad anxieties.

The entire episode seems to be politically motivated. Earlier, we saw protests from offline retailers against e-commerce companies. Now, small businesses are enraged with the launch of this huge mall in Lucknow. They see sprawling shopping centres as a threat to their small stores.

One more thing which puzzled many was the inauguration ceremony. The chief minister himself was present. Many Hindu hardliners were unhappy with this. They couldn’t digest the fact that their ‘strong’ leader is seen befriending a Muslim.

But behind Yogi’s appearance, there was a compulsion. First, it was a huge business investment in the capital of the state, around ₹2500 crore by some estimates. Second, the owner Yusuf Ali has a very amenable relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Thus, Yogi couldn’t have missed the attendance.

Meanwhile, the recent controversy also sheds light on the present situation in the country and, especially, in Uttar Pradesh. Everything has now been given a communal colour. The saddest part is the city of Lucknow which was known for its Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb is in the news for namaaz-sundar kand dispute.

As told to Md Tausif Alam

‘Rampur, Azamgarh By-polls Prove Voter’s Trust In CM Yogi’

Ashok Vishnoi, BJP’s district general secretary of Rampur, UP, says days of dynastic politics in Uttar Pradesh are over. Here, in his own words:

The BJP is overwhelmed with the results of recent by-polls in Uttar Pradesh. We have wrested the two Lok Sabha seats of Rampur and Azamgarh which were once considered the pocket borough of Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan.

The victory has sent a message – by and large – that nothing is permanent in politics. And any political change can only be brought by tireless working for janata, the people, the electorate. Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave us a mantra: Thakna nahi hai, rukna nahi hai (Forget the fatigue, work without a break). And following his advice, the BJP cadre in Rampur has rolled the dice in our favour.

While Azam Khan was not at his venomous best, having drawn lessons from Election Commission action earlier, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh thought it would be a cakewalk. Little did they realise that things have changed under Yogi Adityanath’s rule. The BJP has given them a rude shock for their complacency and laidback attitude.

Chief Minister Adityanathji, along with a team of 16 ministers, made it a point to reach out to every nook and corner of the constituency, and made the electorate aware about his work and future plans, coupled with the near absence of the so-called ‘entitled rulers’ of Rampur, turned the tide in BJP favour.

ALSO READ: ‘Yogi Didn’t Change Policemen, He Changed Policing’

The by-poll results have once again proved that the people have faith in Yogi Adityanathji and Narendra Modiji. It is not only the victory of our candidates but the victory of BJP’s ethics and work culture.

Another thing which the results have thrown up is that caste politics and appeasement policies are fading away. The voter has woken up. The victory (both in Rampur and Azamgarh) has sent a message loud and clear: blocks of Muslim-Yadav, Pandits, OBCs, SCs, and STs are a passé. If you want to win, you need to first win their hearts and address to their concerns. It was not a fight of Lodhis, Jatavs, Yadavs, Muslims and others this time. It was about the people and their basic needs.

The voter knew who would come to respond to their concerns. They would not vote for the dynasts and their representative who have done little to address their issues for years. The results are all about ridding the constituency of one-family business. After all, if their elected ‘leader’ is a serial offender and a frequent visitor to jail, who will stand by them in the times of a crisis?

At the same time, it has brought a huge responsibility on our shoulders. If the BJP leaders fail to deliver on their promises, or do not live up to the expectations of the voter, we too shall lose the plot sooner than later. We must not be complacent; we have to sustain the voters’ trust in us and that is our challenge

As told to Rajat Rai

‘Yogi Will Be Remembered As The Monk Who Transformed UP’

Malaya Mishra, 52, a Chartered Accountant from Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, says Yogi has shown good intent and brought sweeping changes in state administration

You may hate him, or you may love him but you just cannot ignore Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh who is now serving his second consecutive term in office. Allow me to explain why.

Uttar Pradesh is a large state, with population equal to the three largest European countries combined. Clearly, with such a large polity to cater, one cannot satisfy each and every one. Yet, Yogi has shown good intent.

It was heartening to see that one of the first things Yogi did after moving into CM’s office was to ban chewing gutkha and pan masala in government offices across the state. This used to be an ugly but ever-present characteristic of sarkari babus. He also implemented measures to ensure that government employees were both well-disciplined and punctual at work. He brought transparency in governance, in the way jobs are given and the way state is run. This is what the common masses in the state had been missing for decades.

His role as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh has been nothing short of historical. Particularly in the way he tackled the menace of organised crime through effective policing and law-making. He has changed ‘UP Wala Bhaiya’ abuse to a badge of honour. Despite high inflation, unemployment, ravages of COVID-19, farmers’ agitation, GST and demonetization, people by and large are not unhappy with his government, and this was clear from the clear electoral mandate. Frankly, Yogi’s re-election as the chief minister was not at all a surprise to many of us; we were never in two minds that he will return to office.

ALSO READ: ‘Yogi Wants To Divide And Rule’

Critics have heaped several disparaging titles on CM Yogi. Here are some examples: ‘India’s most divisive and abusive politician who often uses his election rallies to whip up anti-Muslim hysteria’; ‘A monk who believes in encounters’; ‘Bulldozer Baba’ and; ‘a firebrand cult leader in saffron robes’ besides many others. But there is no stopping this mass leader.

Mishra (left) says Yogi will keep his promises made before elections

From Sanyasi to CM, Yogi in my opinion will be remembered in future as ‘The Monk Who Transformed Uttar Pradesh’. He is the first Chief Minister of the state to return after completing five years. Yogi is going hammer and tongs against the mismanagement and malpractices in health sector and is working overtime to fight goondaism and lawlessness. So, I would like to believe that the Yogi government 2.0 will surely pave the path for further development of its citizens and state.

The Yogi government 2.0 has made it clear that in this term the focus will be on youth, education, health, women, employment generation and infrastructural development. He has raised the bar of expectations really high and in his second innings we expect him to make the state more secure, particularly for women, provide better primary education, ensure communal harmony, remove corruption, create jobs and improve the air quality of the state. I strongly believe that he is a man of his words and he will do everything to keep his promises.

As told to Deepti Sharma

‘Yogi Wants To Divide & Rule, But We All Want Bijli, Sadak, Pani’

Zeeshan Alvi, 30, a Block Development Council member in Baramau (Kanpur), says Yogi’s poll campaign whitewashed good work of SP Govt and brainwashed people on communal lines

I can say with confidence that a huge number of Muslims have invested their trust in Samajwadi Party and its leadership in Uttar Pradesh, the state with the largest Muslim population. As per records nearly 79% Muslims voted for SP in the recently concluded Assembly elections. You can also say that a pro-SP vote can be counted as a vote against the divisive politics of the BJP.

It is true that more Muslims were killed in Muzaffarnagar riots under SP rule as compared to the BJP rule, but the constant fear of being lynched or discriminated against was not there. The 80-20 factor did play a major role in these elections. People have been divided along religious lines. Perhaps they will understand the futility of this when they face difficulty in basic issues such as education, employment and other amenities.

Akhilesh Yadav has always given premium to education and employment and finding solutions to problems that plague us now, rather than talking about the past. According to me, the BJP has already begun preparing for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and The Kashmir Files is the first stepping stone. BJP is about righting wrongs of the past while we need a future-oriented leadership.

Having said that, other parties should learn planning and strategy from the BJP, just having good intentions for the public will not work if it is not advertised to the public. Look at BJP, they put so much effort into advertising. Even the stadium that CM Yogi Adityanath took his oath in, was built by the Akhilesh Yadav government. People have short term memory about the development work.

Alvi says BJP has started preparing for the next Lok Sabha elections

Muslims chose the SP even over Owaisi-led AIMIM because we want development and inclusiveness. We want someone who can understand all sections of society and to me Akhilesh Yadav is an able leader. Many people say that the crime rate has come down under Yogi Adityanath. I believe the crime rate was under control during SP’s reign too. Just that they didn’t tom-tom about their work.

ALSO READ: Yogi Is Not Interested In Creating Jobs For Youth

The UP electorate rejected almost every one else apart from BJP and SP. But I would say SP won its seats without playing divisive politics. I feel BJP has brainwashed the janata into believing we are different, but deep down we are all the same: we all want bijli, sadak, pani, education, jobs etc. Let’s hope people will open their eyes by 2024.

I hope local leaders like us will be able to bring about change, be it an independent candidate like me or those belonging to any party. I have actively been involved in politics since my college days and have good understanding of the ground reality.

People will soon tire of issues like the hijab controversy or any such thing which divides them and I hope that in the next Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections, SP will fare even better than this year and the politics of hatred will be defeated. I rue the fact that no MLA from Kanpur has been given a ministerial berth in the Yogi cabinet, despite it being such an important constituency.

As told to Yog Maya Singh

‘Yogi Adityanath Is Not Interested In Creating Jobs For Youth’

Ashish Yadav, 24, a Samajwadi Party supporter from Bareilly, says the BJP may have won Uttar Pradesh elections by unfair means

Yogi Adityanath coming to power a second time isn’t good for the youth of Uttar Pradesh, but the youngsters supporting the BJP cannot see it for now. There are no employment opportunities in the state and youth are being made to suffer due to lack of strategy and planning on part of the government.

I would have preferred Samajwadi Party at the helm and Akhilesh Yadav in the chief minister’s office. Yadav is an educated man and understands the important of providing educational as well as employment opportunities for the youth. Given the way the pandemic has flat-lined economic development and subsequent employment opportunities, a good, compassionate and empathetic leader is the need of the hour.

I have always wanted to be a teacher, but sadly, I’m still unemployed. Either there are no vacancies or if there are any jobs, there is so much mismanagement that one feels utterly helpless. It might do well for people to remember news of the rampant irregularities in the recruitment process for 69,000 assistant teachers in Uttar Pradesh in 2020.

The BJP claims to have solid administration, but then how could mismanagement on such a large scale happen? Many people were appointed as late as December/January and I believe it kind of influenced the voting patterns of people. Wouldn’t someone feel indebted to the government for finally getting a job?

Samajwadi Party’s vote share has gone up in these elections and that is surely an encouraging thing. Sometimes I wonder if the BJP has won these elections in a fair manner. The whole EVM controversy points towards something different. BJP ko power ka ghamand ho gaya hai isliye wo janta ki choices ki izzat nahi karti (an arrogant BJP couldn’t care less about the people’s mandate).

ALSO READ: ‘Yogi Can Break Our Bones, Not Resolve’

However, it is important to note that the local leader (MLA) is as important as the Chief Minister. For, they understand the ground reality and are the link between the common man and the CM. Many people say that during Samajwadi Party’s tenure the crime rate was high and Yogi has managed to bring it down. But are the rules of law being followed? Are we going to turn into a society that forgets the context and doesn’t take into account the larger picture?

I admit that the Samajwadi Party needs to strengthen its administration but I believe that its heart is in the right place and the leadership at top understands the concerns of the common man.

There are many BJP leaders who consider themselves superior to the people they represent and are adept at pointing towards the mistakes of others, whenever a problem is pointed out. The former minister of basic education, Satish Chandra Dwivedi, hasn’t been very sensitive towards the needs of the students or teachers at the primary level. I hope the new education minister does better work.

I am also happy about the fact that Akhilesh Yadav has resigned from his Lok Sabha seat as it will help him to focus on local/state politics better. That is the need of the hour and I can see a better future under the Samajwadi Party. It is a welcome step and Samajwadi Party just needs to strengthen its communication skills.

As told to Yog Maya Singh

Three Quick Takeaways From Assembly Poll Results

If you distil down the results of the five states that held assembly elections recently, there are three conclusions that could describe them best. These three facts are what will shape the future of politics and governance in India. The same three conclusions will also impact the future of three political parties.

First, it is the unabated surge of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Winning Uttar Pradesh decisively by getting 255 of the 403 seats and, thus, retaining India’s most populous state does two things. It underlines how strong the party is in the northern belt, which in turn could be a pointer to its fortunes when parliamentary elections are held in 2024. It also silences critics who thought that the stock of UP’s hardliner chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, was falling. Already speculation has begun on whether Adityanath, 49, could succeed Narendra Modi, 71, as Prime Minister in the coming years.

There was a time before 2014 that many people ruled out that Modi (whose tenure as chief minister of Gujarat was controversial) could become India’s Prime Minister. As it happened, the doubters were put paid and Modi’s popularity continues to soar. Could Adityanath be waiting in the wings to succeed him? In Indian politics, as they say, anything can happen.

The second conclusion is the spectacular surge of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). There is possibly no precedent to what the party, led by Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, has pulled off by winning Punjab. No small regional party such as AAP has done that before. AAP won 92 of the 177 seats in Punjab, thereby reducing the traditional contenders — Shiromani Akali Dal, BJP, and Congress — to mere also rans. This has many ramifications.

ALSO READ: Cong Leadership Will Never Learn: Capt

It establishes that small regional parties, if they play their strategies well, can expand to other regions outside their strongholds and can prove to be formidable opponents to bigger traditional parties in their own bastion. AAP’s victory in Punjab does just that but it also catapults the party and its leader Kejriwal to the central stage. AAP will now be a force to contend with and we ought not to be surprised if prominent leaders from parties such as the Congress leave to join the AAP.

The third and least surprising conclusion is the complete rout of the Congress party, a political organisation that once reigned supreme in the country. Indeed, looking at the party’s current state, it is difficult to believe that it had ever been so strong, powerful, and at the top of India’s political pack. In Uttar Pradesh, the Congress won just two seats of the 403; in Punjab it managed 18; in Goa 11 (the BJP won 20) of the 40; in Uttarakhand 19 (BJP won 47) out of 70; and in Manipur it got five (BJP won 32) of the 60 seats. The writing on the wall is clear.

The Congress, run by the Gandhi family, is facing a serious leadership crisis. This has not only meant that that the party is rudderless but it has continued to be dynastic — Rahul Gandhi, the reluctant heir to his mother and the party’s current head, Sonia Gandhi, has proved himself to be a failure several times over and yet the party’s leaders do not try to infuse new blood or revamp the way the party is run. By the time 2024 rolls in and the Lok Sabha elections are held, the Congress could get diminished even further. Its fate in the recent five-state assembly polls shows that clearly.

Bad News Awaits Yogi In Uttar Pradesh

As the dance of democracy rolls on in Uttar Pradesh, it seems bad news has come to stay for the BJP, even as the assembly polls in the spring of 2022 might signal symbolic signs of which way the wind might blow in the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. Indeed, for both Yogi Adityanath and Narendra Modi, the writing on the wall is loud and clear, and, surely, achche din seem nowhere in sight for them, or the BJP.

The seasoned journalists who were predicting only a depletion of 100 seats for the BJP, have now come down to 150. Apparently, certain bureaucrats in the state are calling up Akhilesh Yadav, sensing the mood on the ground. A district magistrate in Western UP, reportedly, refused to order a repoll in certain booths in a constituency despite the ardent pleas of a BJP heavyweight. These are all markers blowing in the wind, like the chronicle of a tale foretold.

While his father remains entrenched in the Union cabinet, despite the angst and anger of the farmers, the release on bail of the principle accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri murder case, with crackers etc to welcome him, has sent waves of disgust and dismay across the rural landscape in the area. Modi’s rally out here therefore might not change the simmering mood on the ground.

Besides, old memories have come to haunt the BJP. The burning pyre of a young Dalit girl in Hathras, with the UP police barricading the site, is etched in the mind of the locals, especially the Dalits. She was brutally assaulted and raped, and her family was not allowed to be part of the funeral of their own daughter. The media was not allowed to report, and, opposition leaders like Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi were stopped at the Delhi-UP border. With massive protests and nation-wide outrage spreading all across, the Yogi regime was compelled to allow the media and politicians access to the mourning family.

Now, Dalits in and around Hathras, are determined to teach Yogi a lesson. Not only here, with Mayawati having disappeared from the scene, Dalits across UP are unhappy with the BJP. In Western UP, anyway, Dalits have consolidated themselves with their Jat and Muslim brothers, in the formidable SP-RLD electoral alliance. The BJP leaders are not even able to visit their own constituencies, or else they have to face the wrath of the farmers. The confluence of Har Har Mahadev and Allah-u-Akbar at the massive Muzaffarnagar rally in the recent past, has all but eliminated the Hindutva card. Polarisation and hate politics just cannot work in Western UP anymore.

There is a noticeable paradigm shift in terms of the dominant BJP narrative in UP. Gone is the belligerent aggression and the strident Hindutva overdrive. The divisive discourse is all but over because communal politics is just not selling anymore in the Hindi heartland.

People have long memories. Bad, sad, bitter memories have a long shelf life. The toxic taste of demonetisation and GST lingers in the back-lanes like ghost stories. The ravaged economic lives of the small-scale industry and petty traders stalk the by-lanes. There is mass unemployment and the economy has gone for a toss. People want development, a better life, food to eat, health and education, jobs for the young. Surely, they don’t want hate politics.

Poor people are not able to have two square meals a day. Poor mothers are eating one meal a day. Women seem to have disappeared from the unorganised work force. The pandemic and lockdown has taken its toll on the poor.

ALSO READ: ‘Why I Don’t Want Yogi To Be CM Again’

The Khatik community of Banda district in Bundelkhand, who backed the BJP in the past, are now terribly disappointed. Poor Khatiks who pick up sand since eternity, for a living, have to spend Rs 200 per day to feed their donkeys. From where will they get this kind of money? ‘‘Badlaav hoga,’’ (there will be change), said a woman to Chal Chitra Abhiyan, an independent news channel run by locals in Western UP.

In the village of Utarva in Banda, according to the news channel, Dalits want jobs. Doors have locks in this village because there is mass migration in search of livelihood. The nomadic community here, who voted for the BJP last time, will not toe the line anymore.

Talking of sand, the memories of the dead buried on the sandy shores of the Ganga, along with scores of dead bodies floating in the river, during the deadly Delta wave in the summer of 2021, haunts the people. People remember the dead cremated in public spaces and the hoardings put up hurriedly in Lucknow by the UP government to block photographers and journalists.

Plus, the memories of the anti-CAA protests have come back. The Supreme Court has recently ordered that the UP government should refund the damages worth crores recovered from the persons accused of destroying public property during the peaceful protests. Several activists, including women, were trapped in false cases.

Besides, the Brahmins, who can sense power from a distance, are waiting and watching. They will certainly vote for the winning alliance. In any case, bereft of political and bureaucratic power, they have been deeply disturbed by the unilateral power enjoyed by the Thakurs under the Yogi dispensation. Across UP, from Lucknow and Varanasi to Saharanpur and Meerut, the disgruntled Brahmin community might mark a decisive shift against the BJP in these assembly polls.

Political observers believe that at least 35 per cent of the BJP support base will shift this time. The backward caste vote base has all but aligned with the SP. Combined with the formidable Yadav-Muslim alliance, this seems a win-win scenario for Akhilesh Yadav. That heavyweights like Swamy Prasad Maurya, a powerful backward caste leader, four times minister with a daughter as MP, has aligned with Akhilesh, is a sign of the times. Like those bureaucrats, he too has sensed the shifting mood on the ground.

The Muslim factor too is crucial. Earlier, sidelining the Muslims, not pitching a single Muslim candidate, and ground level polarization would consolidate the Hindutva votes across the Hindu community. Now no more. This will lead to the Muslim community uniting as one against the BJP. With the backward castes, a section of Dalits and Brahmins too joining the Yadav alliance, the BJP is on a sticky wicket.

The ban on hijab in the schools of Karnataka has shocked the nation. Even BJP supporters can’t understand why school girls with backpacks, chasing dreams, should be unnecessarily targeted. There are reports that there is deep resentment within the BJP, including among Union cabinet ministers, against the move. The ban, which seemed a symbolic sign to polarize in UP, seemed to have boomeranged.

With schoolgirls from the Hindu, Christian and other communities, holding hands with the Muslim schoolmates in hijab, marching in solidarity, hand to hand, a new wave of unity in diversity has brought cheer to the nation. And this is the cheer and optimism which will be blowing in the wind in the state of UP in the spring of 2022. Resurrecting the chronicle of a tale foretold in the summer of 2022.

‘Women Safety Hasn’t Improved, But Worsened Under Yogi’

Raveena Nijjar, a 26-year-old employee with a software group in Noida (Uttar Pradesh), says it is high timewomen safety became an electoral issue

I have been catcalled, molested and harassed at public places, not once but multiple times. This is not just my story but the story of every woman out there in India. But this story becomes more horrible for women when it comes to Uttar Pradesh.

I am a 26-year-old girl, who works in a software company in Noida and consider myself strong and independent. I think I am brave and project myself as one. Despite this outward self-assurance, there’s deep down a constant fear of being harmed — molested, kidnapped, raped — when I am alone out there on the road.

I have seen BJP electoral campaign which speaks about women feeling safe in the state under Yogi Adityanath rule. I beg to differ. Instead of improving, the situation has only deteriorated in the past few years. There’s been continuous rise of crime against women and the intensity of the crime has been increasing each passing day.

You open the newspaper and you see horrible stories of crime against women splashed all over — raped for protesting against sexual advances, burnt alive for dowry, acid poured for refusing proposal… the list goes on. If you further focus at the place of the news, you’ll see the state of Uttar Pradesh where a majority of such incidents are happening.

On top of this, the saddest part is the attitude of political parties towards our safety. It’s bizarre and outrageous to make such claims that the incumbent government in Uttar Pradesh has addressed the issue of women safety in the state.

ALSO READ: The Monk Who Sold Hardline Hindutva

Though the recent claim by the current government that UP women can go out at night without fear is not even close to the truth, this can be a point that women should not let go. If a political leader has talked about it, women should come together, rally around this and press for it in this election in Uttar Pradesh. We don’t need such lip service; we need real safety.

Our political leaders are far from reality on the ground. I believe that it’s time for women in Uttar Pradesh to hold political parties accountable and demand safety for themselves. We should make it an election issue now. High time.

This country is talking about increasing the participation of women in the workforce. But this participation will only increase when the government addresses the core issue of women safety. I work at night shifts and the shift ends at an odd hour, when the entire road is deserted. It’s every day’s fear for me and other girls to reach home safely.

I have spent some time in other states like Karnataka (in Bengaluru) and Maharashtra (in Mumbai). As a woman, I have felt safer travelling around there. But, when you land in Uttar Pradesh (in Noida), you suddenly feel many pair of eyes chasing you. However, the situation is better in cities compared to the hinterland of the state, where the horror stories of crime and injustices against women can send shivers down your spine.

As told to Md. Tausif Alam

‘You May Differ With His Ideology, But Yogi Has Made UP Safer’

Dr Sangeeta Sharma, 65, Principal of Pandit Sujan Singh Degree College in Meerut (Uttar Pradesh), says law & order has remarkably improved in the Yogi regime

The western Uttar Pradesh, the area where I have been living, is often popularly referred to as the Badlands of the state. There is a saying in several households here: when the Sun goes down, you lie down. This means women and even men are advised not to travel or step outside during late hours as criminals rule the streets after sunset.

However, things have drastically changed in the last five years since Yogi Adityanath took reins of the state as Chief Minister.

Earlier, even daylight crimes chain snatching, petty robberies, eve teasing, molestation in colleges and universities were order of the day. It is not difficult to imagine if this was the situation in urban areas, how things would be in rural pockets. But, as I said, that was before Yogi took charge.

His government apparently placed law and order as its top priority as the state administration, including police, started rebuilding the trust of people with positive steps that were visible, right after he took over. One of the first such step was forming anti-Romeo surveillance squads.

I know that these squad drew widespread criticism from several quarters, but the critics have little idea about the plight of school- and college-going girls. Miscreants on bikes had made commuting to educational institutions a miserable experience. Being a degree college principal, I know what hardships my students were facing. Today, eve teasing and molestations have become extremely rare.

ALSO READ: ‘Yogi Didn’t Change Policemen, He Changed Policing’

It is heartening to see the police being sensitive to crime against women in Uttar Pradesh. Even the complaints made on a micro-blogging site like Twitter are taken seriously by the UP Police social media cell and promptly pursued. This is a dramatic change, an unprecedented one, and it could not have been possible unless the orders came right from the top.

Sharma says anti-Romeo squads (right) were a necessity in Uttar Pradesh

We had never imagined that such a safe environment would be brought in Meerut and nearby areas in our lifetime. The presence of police has increased, which gives us more confidence. Now we can go out for a walk after dinner fearlessly as police patrol vehicles are scaling the streets throughout the night.

There is another local example to prove my point. There used to a ‘Chor Bazaar’ called Soti Ganj in Meerut and everyone in the district administration knew that stolen cars and bikes were brought in there every day, dismantled and then the spare parts sold in black market.

The market had been in business for as long as we can recall. Yet, little action was ever taken to stem the rot. It was a blot on our city as even people as far as from Delhi-Noida mentioned it as stolen vehicle haven. Mercifully, under the Yogi rule, the infamous trade has been kicked out of the city.

One can have ideological differences with the party that Yogi Adityanath belongs to but his good work has to be appreciated. Of course, there is a long way to go to strengthen the law and order in the state but the sense of safety and security which has been brought about under his rule is praiseworthy. Yogi is taking the state into the right direction.

I hope that others states also follow the same route to make India a safe country for every citizen, and women in particular.

As Told To Deepti Sharma

‘Yogi Didn’t Change Policemen, He Changed Policing’

Shruti Gupta, an independent Chartered Accountant in Lucknow, says initiatives like emergency response and pink booths have made life safer for women in UP

I am a Chartered Accountant and till about a few years ago, I was working with a private company in Lucknow. Three years ago, I started my own firm, along with my husband (also a CA) and feel good about taking that decision. What caused this transition and gave me the confidence to take the plunge is directly associated with the law and order situation of Uttar Pradesh in general and Lucknow in particular.

When I was an employee, my daily concern was to wrap up work in time and reach home before it was dark. Even though Lucknow is a cultured city, traveling late for a woman alone caused concerns. Since accounts is stream where, several times in a year, workload get heavy, it would be stressful. This affected work and family both.

I always thought it would be better to start one’s own independent business but everyone in the family and friends circles advised against us. For, it would mean dealing with unwanted elements, even paying up extortion money to avoid unpleasant incidents.

However, two years of Adityanath Yogi taking over as Chief Minister and we could see a change in the situation. Crime rates dropped and there was a marked improvement in the law and order, be it organised law-breakers or petty street incidents. I would say that CM Yogi didn’t change the police staff but he changed the policing.

One particular incident on a late evening during lockdown sealed my decision to start my own accounting services setup. On that day, despite the lockdown, an important work warranted our physical presence in the office. By the time our work was wrapped up, it was dark and no scope of finding a public or private vehicle to return home.

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We had heard of Yogi Govt initiative of emergency helpline 112 but were apprehensive about it, having seen how state services function in Uttar Pradesh. Yet, I took a chance and called the emergency response line.

Much to my surprise, a polite lady answered the call and patiently took down my details. I was told that help was on its way and the lady sub-inspector, Reena Choudhary, also gave her personal mobile number in case of any emergency. And lo, soon enough a PRV (Police Response Vehicle) van arrived at our office with female cops. I was dropped home with a request to avoid violating Covid curbs in future.

The same year, 24×7 Pink Police Booths, to assist women in distress emerged in the city. Such progressive steps were unimaginable in Uttar Pradesh. I needed no further persuasion to set up my own accounting firm. Having worked in the sector for three years, I could generate a respectable client base and, a few hiccups later, we soon reached a break-even point. From there, it was easy to turn corners and now I am happy to see a stable structure in place.

I sincerely want to thank the new dispensation in Lucknow to give the courage and confidence to a woman to start on her own. As I mentioned earlier, the change was not brought about by transferring of police personnel and placing one’s own people in place, as was the norm in earlier governments, but by changing the policing system. With a vigilant police presence in the city, there is no scope for miscreants. It is heartening to see women in khaki guarding the nook and corner of Lucknow on swift-moving pink scootys.

The stress and silly mistakes that came with it are now a thing of the past. I have a much relaxed work atmosphere and there is peace of mind. Parents and relatives, who were opposed to the idea of launching a business venture in UP, are happy and satisfied now. Discipline flows from the top and this is what we saw in last five years.

As told to Rajat Rai