Twenty two people had lost their lives in the recent week-long agitation by Gujjars for inclusion in the ST category. While the human casualty, fortunately, was limited to 1 in the Dera Sachcha Sauda and Akal Takht confrontation, shops and business establishments had suffered a major blow. We are citing only these examples here not because they are novel in nature, but only because the latest in the series of travesty of justice in our nation.
In fact, so prevalent, and consequently so tragic is the problem that it has now become comical! A participant of a popular comedy show on TV had once mentioned, “in our country even if a pig hurts a kid, people would get on to streets and burn a public transport bus. Kyon bhai, did the pig come to the locality in that bus?”
The joke in itself is funny, but it tells a very grim story of India’s utter contempt for public property. In fact, another joke says that the Indian public considers public property as its own property and goes about doing whatever it wants to with it!
The fact of the matter is that even though man is a social animal, the animal instinct is always lurking round the corner. Whether it is about the desire for others’ spouses and wealth or a case of intimidating and harassing someone weaker than us, we humans are always on a lookout for unleashing our inner animal on to the society. And when the first few experiments succeed, without having to pay any price, the act of putting the wild energy to destructive use almost becomes an addiction.
But that is about individuals or a mob. We don’t live in a jungle. There is a desire for a structure or order. And precisely for purpose, we have an entity called government. Unfortunately, governments in India either pander to the baser instincts of individuals or mobs or are scared of the latter.
Conveniently for both the mob and the government, both are faceless entities, which go unpunished for their respective acts. So while a mob can ransack a public bus without getting too personal in its war against, well, anything, government too hides behind the excuse of such acts being “a spontaneous act of anger by general public”.
But what about the loss of public property in the process. Who pays for it?
But before we get too remorseful about destruction of public property, let’s get it clear what constitutes public property.
According to THE PREVENTION OF DAMAGE TO PUBLIC PROPERTY ACT, 1984, public property is defined as follows:
Any property, whether immovable or movable (including any machinery) which is owned by, or in the possession of, or under the control of-
(i) The Central Government;
(ii) Any State Government;
(iii) Any local, authority;
(iv) Any corporation established by, or under, Central, Provincial or State Act;
(v) Any company as defined in Section 617 of the Companies, Act, 1956 (1 of 1956);
(vi) Any institution, concern or undertaking which the Central Government may, notification in the Official Gazette, specify in this behalf.
So, what’s in it for us? Why should we be overtly concerned if some maniac burns down a city bus?
Because, a part of the sales, service and income taxes, along with things like octroi etc that the government collects from us is in the name of such facilities. Now if the government itself doesn’t care for those things, allows them to be destroyed and eventually makes us bereft of those facilities, what are we giving our hard-earned money to the government for? For eg: If the government charges a 2% cess on IT for education and doesn’t make it any better, isn’t that a case of cheating; and looting of your property? Think.