Ask any self-respecting Indorean to locate the world capital, and chances are that he would unhesitatingly name Indore. It is a people passionately in love with their city. The citizens of Indore have just discovered one more reason to admire their beloved town.
People of Indore are still gushing about, with awe in their voice, about the city administration’s ongoing crusade against cattle mafia. The unprecedented blitzkrieg against mafia started about a month ago, when illegal cattle-breeders stabbed to death a 25-year-old municipal employee during a drive against stray cattle.
The murder took place in a crowded locality in broad daylight as armed thugs attacked municipal staff removing stray cattle. The stray cattle squad of Indore Municipal Corporation had gone to that area in response to citizens’ complaint to chief minister’s helpline.
Since then Indore Municipal Corporation, backed by district administration and a long-suffering citizenry, with the tacit support of local politicians, has launched a relentless campaign. The drive enjoys the tacit support of local politicians, who had to choose between a handful of cattle-breeders and the city’s 30 lakh strong population.
Reading the riot act to illegal cattle-breeders, it has been razing to ground their palatial houses, demolishing their sprawling cattle sheds, arresting trouble-makers and, of course, driving out stray animals outside municipal limits.
In a rare display of State’s might, municipal authorities, backed by a massive workforce of 500 persons, half of them policemen, have been scouting the city, armed with bulldozers.
What has put the fear of god among cattle owners is that, starting with the house of the main accused in the murder case, the administration has razed to ground dozens of unauthorised houses and yards constructed to rear livestock. Of these, three palatial houses were spread over an area of 13,000 sq ft, part of it constructed on public land.
The Municipal Corporation got a free hand because of a perfect understanding between Mayor Malini Gaud and Commissioner Manish Singh. Enraged by the murder, Gaud reportedly enlisted the support of Home Minister Bhupendra Singh Thakur to nip in bud the possibility of political interference in favour of the powerful cattle lobby.
Most of the MLAs were taken into confidence and they cooperated, sensing the public mood. The cattle owners approached the chief minister, but it only bought them a few days more to shift their illegal operation outside municipal limits.
ILLEGAL CATTLE BREEDERS
It was not the first time that illegal cattle-breeders had attacked municipal employees, whose job it is to impound stray cattle. Over the past few years there have been at least half a dozen incidents when thugs have attacked stray cattle squad of Indore Municipal Corporation, beaten them up and freed the impounded animals.
IMC has a list of 27 cattle-breeders who had attacked the squad in the past. Indore’s notorious cattle mafia are a law unto themselves and operate under political patronage.
Rearing of livestock in municipal limits is prohibited. But it is a lucrative business. Many pig-breeders of Indore are known to maintain luxury cars. The problem is that livestock in city, such as buffaloes, cows, pigs and goat, not only contribute to unhygienic conditions, but also cause road accidents. Orthopaedics say almost half the traffic accidents in Indore are caused by stray dogs, cattle and pigs that rule the city roads.
Team Indore has been acting when it is supposed to act. Last year, police arrested a BJP corporator, her husband and half-a-dozen other persons after an additional commissioner of Indore Municipal was slapped during a protest. The action was backed by Mayor Malini Gaur, who is herself a BJP politician. Many other politicians from the ruling party were not too pleased, but the administration allowed law to take its own course.
This was in sharp contrast to an incident at Bhopal that took place around the same time. BJP MLA Surendra Nath Singh led a raid on a municipal facility in broad daylight, looted handcarts and kiosks seized in an anti-encroachment drive, thrashed government employees who tried to stop them and walked away with impunity after committing the crime.
Thanks to good understanding between politicians and administrators, Team Indore had achieved sparkling results two years ago too when the municipal corporation removed almost 70-year-old encroachments in one of the densest localities to widen roads in downtown Indore.
Compare this, again, to Bhopal. Unauthorised construction, in violation of building bylaws, on nullahs and water bodies had caused unprecedented floods in the capital last monsoon. The authorities subsequently demolished the structures responsible for floods. Last heard, many property owners had started rebuilding their houses on the same spot!
There is a lesson to be learnt, probably. The further away you are from the seat of power, the better you perform.
Powers That Be, my column in DB Post of 26 March 2017