Fine-drive effect: Fear & loathing in Ranchi


Friday was almost unreal in the capital city. Almost all thoroughfares bore a deserted look. Even auto-rickshaw drivers, who are notorious for overloading, wrong-side driving, picking and dropping passengers at will from the middle of the road, were driving cautiously. Many autos stayed away from the road.

Traffic policemen attributed it to the fear the new Motor Vehicles Act, which has radically hiked fines for offences, has struck in the hearts of motorists. The decision of the Ranchi traffic police department to recommend suspension of licence of offenders for a period of three months has aggravated the fears, they said.

“Right from the morning traffic remained quite smooth,” said a traffic constable at Ratu Chowk. “Even during the peak hours of 9am to 11am when people rush to offices, there was less traffic than usual. That means people who don’t have proper documents of their vehicle are scared of venturing out on the road.

“Though the new Motor Vehicles Act is harsh in terms of fine and punishment, it has some positive impact,” he added. “Now the new rule fixes liability on parents with three years of jail and Rs 25,000 fine if their juvenile son or daughter is caught driving.”

The traffic policemen continued the enforcement drive through the day.

On Thursday, state transport commissioner Praveen Toppo issued a directive to the traffic police department saying that if anyone empowered to enforce provisions of the new law is found committing an offence under the same law, that person will be liable to for twice the penalty mandated for that offence under the new law.

Acting upon that order, Ranchi traffic superintendent of police Ajit Peter Dungdung slapped Rs 34,000 fine on traffic constable Rakesh Kumar on Harmu road on Friday morning.

“He was driving the bike and an ASI (assistant sub-inspector)-rank official was the pillion rider,” SP Dungdung said on Friday. “We can’t just ignore that he is from traffic department and was on duty.

“We can’t preach people to follow traffic rules and fine them when our own staff are not following the rules,” he added. “Though he was wearing helmet but pillion rider was without helmet hence he was imposed a fine of Rs 2,000. Then I started checking every paper of his bike. He was not carrying driving licence, the bike was without pollution-under-control certificate and it was not insured.”

The SP insisted that there would be no leniency in taking strong action against government vehicles and public servants.

A state government employee, who works at Project Building, said that for the past four days he has not been using his two-wheeler to go to office.

“The pollution certificate and insurance of my bike expired around two years ago. I did not get time for renewal, and honestly speaking I just ignored it because police never checked for these documents except helmet, driving licence and registration papers,” he said. “Today (Friday) I got the insurance policy paper but getting the pollution-under-control certificate is a challenging job because I will have to take my bike to the testing centre and there is no guarantee that I will not be caught on the way there.”

Awdhesh Kumar, an auto-rickshaw driver, said he had kept his vehicle off the road for the last three days as its pollution-under-control certificate had lapsed a month back.

“Early morning tomorrow (Saturday) I will visit the pollution testing centre to get the certificate,” he said. “It is safe early morning because traffic cops generally join duty around 9am. I can’t risk driving and paying the fine. I have already borrowed money to buy the auto-rickshaw. I also carry some children to school. I have stopped it till I have proper documents,” he said.

“Auto drivers fear that they will have to pay huge penalty for minor faults,” he added. “They also park randomly, pick up and drop passengers anywhere on the road. I will request the traffic department to properly train them about the law,” he added.

Child lifting hysteria grips Jharkhand


The child lifting hysteria that has gripped parts of Jharkhand hinterland in the recent weeks may have its roots in the vulnerability of children to traffickers and kidnappers prowling the interiors of the State, police officials working at the grass root level said on Friday.

At least 40 incidents of commoners being thrashed on suspicion of child lifting have been reported from different parts of Jharkhand in the past one week. While a majority of the victims survived the vicious attacks by enraged mobs, a middle-aged man from Ramgarh succumbed to his injuries on Wednesday. At least five such cases were reported in Ramgarh district alone in the past 15 days and the police have arrested five persons accused of spreading rumours about child lifters and instigating attacks.

The latest incident in the series of mob attacks here was reported from Jamtara on Thursday, where a middle-aged man was thrashed on suspicion of kidnapping a child who eventually turned out to be his own son.

The victim, identified as Pintulal Barman of Gedia village under Bindapathar police station was waiting for his bus to Dhanbad at a local bus stand when his younger son, a six-year-old, started throwing tantrums and crying for snacks. The onlookers suspected him to be a child lifter and thrashed him without paying heed to any of his explanations.

“We are regularly holding awareness campaigns in villages. The situation is so alarming that infuriated mobs even beat up the people who try and stop the attacks,” said Ramgarh Superintendent of Police, Prabhat Kumar.

Besides Ramgarh, several such incidents have been reported from Bokaro, Koderma and Hazaribag districts, police said. However, the fear among villagers that they may lose their children to child lifters appears legitimate given the situation of human trafficking and child labour in Jharkhand. As per figures mentioned in the official website of Jharkhand Police, as many as 864 children are traceless in Jharkhand. They went missing and were never found.

As per data with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), 2,489 children were reported missing from 2013 to 2017. “We often see that the families that lose a child to traffickers become extremely aggressive about protecting the other children,” said an official from Anti Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) in Khunti.

Child trafficking seems to be another reason that has instilled fear among villagers here. According to the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report released in 2016, at least 155 people, including 90 minors, were trafficked from Jharkhand in 2015. However, activists beg to differ with the statistics and claim that the count of children trafficked from Jharkhand is much higher than what the NCRB states.  

Activists from Save the Children, an international organization working in the field of child rights, said that the cases of child lifting were quite rare in Jharkhand. Instead, cases of children being lured for work to other cities and children leaving their homes in search of employment were more common, they added.

“We have to understand that there are different categories of missing children. Many children migrate in search of work and go missing, while many are forced to work by their own parents. The cases of child lifting or kidnapping as such are rare. The fear of villagers, however, is justified and social media is blowing it out of proportion,” said Mahadev Hansda, State Programme Manager, Save the Children, Jharkhand.

Hansda also expressed concern over the violence reported in the interiors over suspicion of child lifting, claiming that it may also hamper the work done in the field of child rights by activists and officials.

“I have read that civil-dressed cops have been thrashed in parts of Jharkhand. As activists, we also have to travel to the interiors and work for child rights. This trend is also risky for us,” he said.

Inspector General (Organized Crime), Ranjeet Prasad, however, said that guessing reasons for the recent incidents and drawing inferences based on the situation of child trafficking in Jharkhand may not be a wise move.

“We have to understand that the hysteria has not only gripped Jharkhand, but also other parts of the country. We obviously cannot deny the fact that guardians are protective about their children. But such extremely violent reaction is a matter of psychological study,” he said.

Bihar: Nilgai buried alive during culling drive in Vaishali district, one person booked


The police in Bihar’s Vaishali district have filed a first information report against the driver of an earth mover used to bury an injured nilgai, The Indian Express reported. However, no arrests have been made yet.

The video has been circulating locally since August 30. It drew widespread outrage on Thursday. The earth mover is seen pushing the injured animal into a pit and burying it with mud.

The video was shot in a village under the jusrisdiction of the Bhagwanpur police station. The officer in charge of the station, Chandrabhushan Shukla, said: “We have booked a JCB driver on complaint of Lalganj ranger.”

The animal was shot by a Hyderabad-based shooter hired by the state environment, forests and climate change department, unidentified police officials told The Times of India.

“A drive was being carried out in the district to kill nilgais, but they were to be buried after proper culling,” Shukla told the newspaper. “This animal was, however, buried alive. The farmers were facing crop loss due to increasing population of nilgais in the district. Accordingly, a committee under the chairmanship of district magistrate had ordered culling of nilgais by hiring a shooter.”

Vaishali Divisional Forests Officer Bharat Bushan Pal told The Times of India that 495 nilgais were culled by the department between August 27 and August 31. “A forest guard has been suspended in the matter,” he added.

District Superintendent of Police Manavjit Dhillon ordered an inquiry on August 30. Several reports had suggested that Lalganj MLA Rajkumar Shah witnessed the incident. However, Shah told The Indian Express that it was a rumour. “I am not the Vaishali MLA,” he added. “I represent Lalganj and had no business to go there. Let the district police look into the matter.”

True love never dies: Bihar man who has treasured wife’s ashes for 27 years


Purnia: Bholanath Alok lives by the adage, “true love never dies”. With just one last wish. That his wife Padma accompany him on his final journey from this world. Only that Padma is no more. In fact, it has been 27 years since she passed away.

But nearly three decades on, the 87-year-old resident of Rupauli village in Purnia district of Bihar, refuses to let go of not just her memories, but also her ashes.

The ashes are kept in a metal pot, wrapped with a piece of cloth and inside a polythene bag. “I have kept her remains safe since 27 years,” Alok said pointing towards the ‘potli’ that hangs from the branch of a mango tree in his courtyard. Below it stands a Tulsi plant. “She died, but her memories live on in my heart,” said Alok.

According to Alok, “We got married very young. And at that tender age, we promised ourselves to live and die together. We smiled together in good times and wiped each-other’s tear and encouraged each other through difficulties.”

“But then she suddenly fell ill. She was a believer. And I tried to get her the best treatment, but could not save her. I had to raise my children without her. But I could not let go of her memories,” said Alok.

Everyday, the octogenarian sits in his courtyard, staring at the ‘potli’. “Padma is not with me, but her ashes never let her memories die. Whenever there’s a problem in the family, I hold the ashes and I’m assured that she is around. She is with us, with me,” he said.

“I have told my children to put ‘potli’ on my chest after I die and cremate it with me. My wife could not live together, but we will get cremated together. If I meet her in the other world, I will tell her that I kept my promise,” said Alok, his eyes welling up.

“This is an unique love story. We’ll definitely fulfill his wish,” said Ashok Singh, Alok’s son-in-law.

India to help Mongolia mitigate impact of smog


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga, who met on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum, discussed was on how India can help mitigate the impact of smog in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar.

The foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said, “President of Mongolia spoke of the success India is having in mitigating the pollution due to stubble burning of wheat in the winter months”

According to Indian Council of Agricultural Research, there have been 41% decline in burning of crop stubble in 2018 as compared to 2016 in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and NCR region due to central government measures.

President Battulga will be visiting India later this month and will be touring Delhi, Bodh Gaya and Bengaluru. India is helping the landlocked country build an oil refinery through a line of credit announced during PM Modi’s visit to the country. In 2015, PM Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the country.

Mongolia, which is landlocked between Russia and China considers India as its “third neighbour” with which it has a spiritual connection.