Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chidambaram on Migrants and Crime

Union Home Minister, P.Chidambaram spoke of illegal migrants into Delhi being the cause for lawlessness in the capital; he said this in the context of an incident of rape in the city. Chidambaram did not think before he spoke and in a sense revealed the mindset of a certain kind of people who want fancy buildings and malls in their city but will insist that those who build them shall not linger around and make the place dirty. I recall a hindi cinema that I watched some years ago – Dil Chahtha Hai – in which one does not come across a single frame showing slums or the poor people.

Well, even before the issue came to be debated on the national TV channels, Chidambaram simply said that he did not mean to identify any particular kind of migrants and this he did in response to criticism from Lalu Yadav and Mayawati. Even those who got angry with Chidambaram are not innocent when it comes to evicting the poor in the name of building world class cities. Recall Sanjay Gandhi, who along with Jagmohan, used bulldozers to demolish homes in the Turkman Gate area in Delhi and send the poor people who lived there to locations across the Yamuna during the emergency in 1975-77. Chidambaram’s remark was indeed a reflection of the fascist mind that thinks the poor and the hapless as criminals.

Well. One did not have to wait for too long after Chidambaram said what he did to demolish this framework that there is indeed a nexus between poverty and crime.

Just the day after, the CBI carried out raids in 34 places across the country including several homes and offices in Tamil Nadu. I must draw Chidambaram’s attention to the simple and harsh fact: That none of those fell in the category that he described as natural criminals. Niira Radia, according to records with the Government, was worth over Three Thousand Crores of rupees. I will not dare to write that figure in numerals because I do not know how many zeroes I should add to the 3 to make it Three Hundred Crores. Some others raided include journalists and a priest running a NGO. None of them can be put in the bracket that Chidambaram described as the cause of all trouble in Delhi.

But then, the Union Home Minister is not just another politician who can be let away for making such remarks. He is, after all, a known lawyer. He must have read the Constitution of India and its salient features while in the Madras Law College as a student and many times after that when he appeared in the various High Courts and in the Supreme Court in his life as a lawyer. And he is one of those who had sworn, many times, to do everything to protect the Constitution. That is part of the oath that he had taken as MP and as Minister several times since 1984.

Now, Article 19 of the Constitution clearly lays down that every citizen of this land, and this includes all those poor people who move away from their villages to work in the cities for low wages and live like animals in the tin sheds in construction sites, on the banks of drainage canals, under the flyovers and bridges and on the pavements and roadsides, to move across the country. And Article 21, that guarantees the right to life also defines life as not mere animal existence but a life with dignity.

Now, Chidambaram did acknowledge that the migrants into Delhi live in illegal colonies. In other words, there is violation of the Constitutional guarantee under Article 21 in the case of these people whom Chidambaram described as people naturally prone to crime. That would mean that Chidambaram and others like him who have sworn to uphold the Constitution are under a mandate to ensure that the migrants are either stopped from leaving their villages (and that will mean that their livelihood is ensured in the villages) or to ensure that those who end up in cities as migrants are housed in legal colonies.

The ball is in the Government’s court. And if money to build such legal colonies is an issue, ask Niira Radia for help! She will certainly tell you the means to make such money. The Home Ministry can engage her as a consultant on a project of this nature and ask her to lend her skills free. I am sure she will agree for such things!


Blogger Kumar said...

Excellent take on the issue.

9:59 AM  

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