Govt must change script to stop NCR’s violent shows | india | Hindustan Times
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Govt must change script to stop NCR’s violent shows

It was an all-India strike called by trade unions across political hues in protest against the policies of the UPA government they claimed had led to inflation and job cuts. Shivani Singh reports.

india Updated: Feb 24, 2013 23:06 IST
Shivani Singh

It was an all-India strike called by trade unions across political hues in protest against the policies of the UPA government they claimed had led to inflation and job cuts.

But it panned out differently in the industrial sectors of Noida.

On the first day of the strike on Wednesday, mobs pelted stones at private offices, burned down a factory and vehicles, including a fire engine.

Police claimed some of the protesters arrested were disgruntled workers.

But a majority of them were youngsters, between the ages of 18 and 25, who looted LCDs, computers, laptops, expensive office furniture and rolls of cloth from a hosiery unit.

Unlike in the 2011 London riots, the looting youth here didn’t hide behind hoodies, a popular casual sportswear that was derided as a symbol of anarchy.

In Noida, the faces of the young rioters were visible on close-circuit cameras as they brazenly indulged in pyromania and arson.

More than 150 have been arrested since and police are scouring for more.

The shanty towns along the eastern border of Delhi are no stranger to such mob violence. Last year, one person was killed and three received gunshot wounds in a riot that broke out after a rumour spread that a man died at a police picket near the Delhi-Noida border.

A mob clashed with the police and set ablaze a CNG filling station. In 2011, police fought a pitched battle with a mob for three hours as it resorted to stone pelting and torched vehicles, reportedly angry over the death of a student in a road accident on the National Highway-24.

Each time, it was the local youth leading the riots. Many were arrested and later let off.

But there are no attempts to understand why violence recurs in these areas. Were they hardened criminals or first-timers? Was it pure criminality or opportunism? Or was it the deprivation and frustration of the youngsters that drove them to such anarchy?

The National Crime Records Bureau data shows that most underage criminals belong to the age group of 16-18 years and blames the socio-economic conditions of the delinquents as a key trigger.

For example, 57% of the offenders come from extremely poor families and 55% are illiterate or have limited primary education.

In the National Capital Region, the social divide cuts strong. The working class character of urban villages that have turned into slums due to over-densification stands detached from the gentrified gated communities and glitzy offices flanking them.

Most of these areas are controlled by slumlords and politicians who often mobilise the disengaged local youth for anything from a sit-in protest to orchestrating large-scale violence.

The causes of the 2011 England riots have been the subject of media and academic debate. A detailed study conducted by the London School of Economics called Reading the Riots concluded that at the heart of what rioters talked about was a pervasive sense of injustice.

For some this was economic — the lack of jobs, money or opportunity. For others, the trigger was broadly social — a feeling of being discriminated against.

The social indices of East London and Noida may not compare but the grievances nursed by the people are similar in both places.

Our administration has rarely engaged with the youth and the cracks that already existed between the state and the community have become deep fissures.Recently, Delhi Police launched Yuva, an initiative to wean disadvantaged young adults away from crime and drugs.

With the help of NGOs, they are providing training in mobile-repairing, house-keeping, electrical works etc. The NCR's law and order issues are perhaps too big to be resolved by vocational training.

But it could be an ice-breaker in engaging with those who feel left out.