If the nearly 48,500 convictions of criminals in Bihar in the last four and a half years are anything to go by, the state once a byword for lawlessness is finally taking on organised crime and the politician-crime nexus.
According to police records, 48,427 criminals were convicted and punished by fast track courts across the state between January 2006 and May 2010.
"Conviction of the criminals in such a short span of time is a big achievement and a model for others to follow," Additional Director General of Police PK Thakur said. Thakur said the speedy trial of criminals initiated by the state government has been lauded by people in the state as well as outside.
During this period, 124 people, including criminals-turned-politicians, were sentenced to death, 8,602 people sentenced to life imprisonment and 2,282 were awarded jail terms of over 10 years.
Police officials here claim that Bihar has surpassed other states in awarding the death sentence to the maximum number of people in 54 months.
When Chief Minister Nitish Kumar came to power Nov 24, 2005, he promised to make Bihar crime-free within three months. He later admitted that it was not possible. But Kumar repeatedly said the crime rate has significantly abated over the years.
Conveying this message during his ongoing "Vishvas Yatra", Kumar told the people that criminals now fear disturbing law and order because of his "political determination to prosecute them through speedy trails".
Bihar police chief Neelmani said the high rate of convictions through speedy trials has instilled a sense of fear in the minds of criminals and anti-social elements.
"It was made possible by speedy trials and convictions. The result is also impressive as the state has recorded a decline in incidents of crime, particularly organised crime," Neelmani said.
For the first time in the state, over a dozen MPs and legislators have been convicted and punished and there has been a sharp decline in the number of abductions and other crimes, including murder, robbery, bank dacoity and road holdups.
In the first week of June this year, Pappu Khan, a former Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) legislator, was sentenced to life imprisonment in a murder case.
Other well-known convicts include former RJD MPs Pappu Yadav and Mohammad Shahabuddin, former Lok Janshakti Party MP Surajbhan Singh, former Janata Dal-United (JD-U) MP Anand Mohan, his wife Lovely Anand and JD-U legislators Narendra Kumar alias Sunil Pandey and Munna Shukla.
Pappu Yadav was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Ajit Sarkar.
Shahabuddin, who is lodged in Siwan jail, was convicted in seven criminal cases, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Sunil Pandey was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the kidnapping of a noted neuro-surgeon in Patna, while Munna Shukla was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of G. Krishnaiah, then the district magistrate of Gopalganj. Anand Mohan was sentenced to death for the same murder.
However, the many convictions have added to the overcrowding in Bihar jails, where, for the first time, convicts outnumber undertrials.
There are nearly 40,000 prisoners lodged in 54 jails, which together are supposed to hold a maximum of 20,000 prisoners.