Chandigarh, May 5: Here are a few headlines from today’s papers that seem to have become routine in Punjab like that of so many dead during militancy.
‘ Farm worker commits suicide’
‘Farmer jumps into canal’
‘Father pays Rs 50 lakh to free Patiala girl from kidnappers’
‘Gangsters fire at rivals, kill 1’
’70 active gangs, over 500 gangsters and counting’.
But there is no need for despair going by some headlines from yesterday’s newspapers that point to silver-lining depending upon the way one looks at it as the same as these could also look comical under the given situation.
‘BJP panel meets suicide victims’ kin’
‘Don’t gangsters become heroes, Sukhbir tells police’
‘Attach properties of drug lords: Sukhbir to police’
There is after all somebody who cares but the problem is that now only a few months are left to attach properties of drug lords, even if their names are known, and that is normally known to the police. One does not know whether such assertions should be taken at face values or as being comical ones. Gangsters are known to be patronized by men in power. Mafia always needs protection of higher ups and going by the number of gangs operating in Punjab, the state easily achieves the distinction of being gangland or mafia land. Some of these gang lords also try their hands at politics directly and enjoy the image of being modern Robinhoods.
At one time, during eighties, Punjab had turned into land of gangs of another kind who operated under the cover of Khalistani freedom fighters but whose actions were highly questionable. There were about the same number of such gangs then as the present gangsters. Now the gang lords operate from with the high walls of prisons too. It can also be termed as the freedom of expression as they put their activities on social sites from their smart mobiles which otherwise they are not supposed to keep. But then everything is available for a price in Punjab jails.
Leaders from Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress have started paying what can be termed as ‘courtesy calls’ to the families of the farmers and farm workers having committed suicide. They have no solution to offer even in the long run except making the ‘solemn’ promise to end this situation after coming into power. It is a different matter that the ‘experts’ from these parties going around lack any understanding of the situation or the socio-economic rot that has been taking place in the rural economy.
When Sukhbir directed the police to launch campaign against drug smugglers earlier, majority of those who were arrested were the addicts and it proved counter-productive. Drugs like LSD and Mandrax used to be the favourite stuff among students even more than three decades back in Punjab while use of opium and poppy husk had been common for a long time but not that extensively. But it only now that Punjab youth has the projection of being druggist at the national level and this has happened during the last about five years. At one level, it is the state government that has been encouraging alcoholism by allowing the opening of liquor vends in every nook and corner of the state to earn more revenue, as if the government is run by the drunkards. It is the shops selling liquor that are the first to be opened early in the morning and the last to be closed around midnight. This could be part of policy of liberalization of the Punjab government, of course not flowing from neo-liberalism.
Punjab has virtually turned immune to the suicides by farmers and farm workers with the English media by and large ignoring these daily deaths, taking the same as routine. It is this apathy that is worrying. Many of the farmers committing suicide are young people who have lost all hope.
However, one can’t wait for some miracle. It is the government in a democracy that has to act rather than making some cosmic announcements. The government has to go to the very roots, a job for which smug bureaucrats are the most unsuitable breed.