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Welfare minister offers guns for votes

Indrajeet Saroj makes offer in crime-prone Kaushambi, where over 1,000 gun licences were issued last yr, 5,000 applications pending. BK Singh reports. Steep climb

india Updated: Jan 06, 2012 02:20 IST
BK Singh
BK Singh
Hindustan Times
BK Singh,UPelections2012,Uttar Pradesh

The badlands of Uttar Pradesh are about to get worse. The state’s social welfare minister Indrajeet Saroj is promising people gun licenses in exchange of votes.

“BSP ki sarkar phir aane par gun licence rewadi ke tarah bantey jayenge (If the BSP comes back to power, gun licences would be distributed like sweets),” the minister has been declaring from every podium.

He is not shooting off his mouth. Over the last five years he has helped many get gun licences. At every meeting, their names are paraded like trophies.

While this breaks new grounds in poll sops — outstripping by far the free rice and television sets that are a big draw in south India — the article itself, however unconventional, is highly coveted in doab, the land between Ganga and Yamuna.

Officials say last year, over 1,000 gun licences were issued and over 5,000 applications are pending.

It is an irony that men of this fertile plain need guns to feed themselves — whichever side of the law they are on.

The crime rate has never dropped in a decade after the district of Kaushambi was carved out from Allahabad. Murder and robbery and every category of crime in between are committed at the drop of a hat.

Last year, FIRs alone were filed for 45 murders, 100 loots, two cases of dacoity, 30 rapes and six kidnappings.

The law-abiding ones take up jobs as security guards in Delhi or Mumbai.

A licence for a revolver or a pistol can fetch a salary of Rs 25,000 in Goa. And a holder of a double barrel .12 bore licence can be paid upto R10,000 a month — a far cry from what a poor farmer can earn at home.

While much can be concluded about the governance thereby, for the poor farmer, getting a licence is an uphill task, requiring an ‘investment’ of upto Rs 1.3 lakh: Rs 50,000 for the mandatory National Savings Certificates, Rs 60,000 for bribes and another Rs 20,000 for incidental expenses.

Many end up selling their tiny plots and even at the end of it, do not get a licence. Which perhaps explains why Saroj’s poll promise will strike a chord with the voters.

But what of the election commission and the violation of the model code of conduct? District Magistrate of Kaushambi Atul Kumar said a notice would be issued to the minister if he is found flouting rules.

First Published: Jan 06, 2012 00:27 IST