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Mainstream, VOL L, No 23, May 26, 2012

Economy’s Reflection in Tihar

Monday 28 May 2012

Anand (name changed) belongs to a village on the outskirts of Delhi in the Narela-Sonepat belt. He is young, probably just over 20, and in jail on a murder charge. He says property dealers rule-the-roost in his area, where most land is being sold at around Rs 1 crore per acre. A little less if it is far-off from the main highway. He says these dealers earn in crores and their gang would get 20 per cent commission. With such large easy money around, a number of such Anand-type gangs grow, leading to gang warfare and killings, He says even farmers who get the money first buy an SUV, a revolver (freely available, according to him), build a ‘kothi’ and purchase agricultural land in distant places as far as Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. While farmers turn into absentee landlords, all this money (or what remains of it) finds its way into basically four spheres—moneylending, gambling, liquor and cable TV—further criminalising a once agrarian economy.

This is an example in only one area on the outskirts of Delhi. A similar change would be taking place on the outskirts of most cities/towns.

Then another big section of inmates are petty ‘property dealers’, whose main job is to seize vulnerable middle-class people’s property through strong-arm methods, either for themselves or on behalf of some mafia don. There are a number of such; and, in fact, most dons are involved in such property ‘dealings’.

In industry too we witness a similar criminalisation of hit-men in jail linked to contractors. This criminalisation in industry is marked by direct labour being replaced by contract labour. The contractors earn huge amounts by fleecing the workers, in league with the management and police. They maintain their own thugs to keep the workers under their iron thumb.

On the other hand, about 70 per cent of the Tihar inmates are poverty-stricken people who take to petty theft to make both ends meet.

With growing impoverisation and greater criminalisation of the economy, it is not surprising to find the jails packed and a number of new jails coming up. Delhi itself has a complex of jails nearly ready close to the UP border!!

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