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Wife of a murdered doctor, a police station with no paper for FIRs

Monday 12 December 2005, by VARGHESE*George K.

There are no short-cuts in the long haul that Nitish Kumar faces in Bihar. But there are first steps waiting to be taken. The Indian Express travels across a hopeful state to begin a series on what the new CM can do right away if he has to justify his mandate.

If Nitish needs an illustrative example of what he needs to fix for law and order, he should listen to this doctor and widow who’s as scared of her husband’s murderers as she is of her police escort. And visit a police station in the capital with a generous supply of uninvited scorpions but no paper for filing FIRs

Interpreting hope comes naturally to Dr Neena Agarwal. Just as she thought life was looking up, on Diwali day, 2004, her husband Dr N K Agarwal was murdered. Her personal loss was in that instant transformed into a statistic, as he became one of 6790 murders that year.

As Bihar lights up to the new Nitish Kumar regime, Neena is cautiously optimistic. “Nitish Kumar has good intentions but changing Bihar will take time,” she says.

The surgeon-gynecologist couple had been running a clinic in Kadam Kuan in Patna since 1997. They had, by 2004, begun reaping the monetary benefits that come with a well-established reputation. That is when Neena began to notice that her husband became nervous and moved away from her while answering certain telephone calls. She did not realise that this was Bihar’s intimation of success, and instead began imagining other demons. “I feared he was having an affair,” she recalls. “It was much later that I realised that he was getting extortion calls.”

Until Agarwal’s killers came calling. They posed as patients and waited for more than an hour in his clinic while he finished lunch in his residential quarters upstairs. Agarwal’s murder galvanised Bihar and doctors struck work for days.

Four days before the murder he had filed an FIR, saying Bindu Singh, a gangster, was threatening him from inside Bhagalpur jail. Rs 10 lakh had been demanded. Agarwal was agreeable to paying up only Rs 3 lakh. Perhaps it was the FIR that provoked the gang to strike immediately.

Neena now practises in a small clinic on Exhibition Road, started after closing down the earlier one. The equipment bought on loan - and now kept in a warehouse - has begun to drain her finances. So is the lone policeman who has been provided to her as security. He gossips around in the neighborhood - that is, when he is actually there.

It is not easy. Just outside her new clinic, an iron merchant was shot down early this year, again in an extortion bid. Neena is not sure if she should request the police to withdraw her security. Though the new government has taken charge, she still wonders whether it would be wiser to simply relocate to Delhi.

If Bindu Singh could operate successfully - making calls, demanding money and ordering violence against the non-compliant, all from inside a prison cell - what are the police doing?

The Kadam Kuan police station where Dr Aggarwal had filed his FIR offers clues to Bihar’s dismal policing record.

For one, the Kadam Kuan PS is situated in the jurisdiction of Sultanganj PS. “If someone loots our PS we will have to file an FIR in Sultanganj,” says a policeman. Like nearly 40 per cent of the state’s police stations, this one too doesn’t have a building.

It functions from two rooms in the Moinul Haque stadium. If anyone is contemplating filing an FIR, he would be well advised beforehand to carry paper, because it’s been a long while since the state’s police stations stopped receiving stationary supplies.

And yet, policemen in Kadam Kuan police station consider themselves fortunate. “We are at least a notified police station,” they say. “There are 14 police stations within Patna which are not notified by the home department. They operate for all functional purposes, but cannot lodge an FIR.”

They are also thankful for a concrete roof over their heads. “In the interiors, most police stations are thatched and snakes and scorpions fall at random,” says a constable.

In a state desperate for reform, that is a chilling metaphor.

Go to SC, seize mafia property: 7-step list for CM

Former Bihar Director General of Police D P Ojha was sacked in the Rabri regime after he cracked down on organised crime in the state. Here is his seven-item prescription for Nitish Kumar, as told to The Indian Express:

? Cancel bail: There are 100 names that run the crime syndicate in Bihar and many of them are politicians. Go to courts and get their bail cancelled. Can be done since while on bail they continue to commit crime.

? Petition the Supreme Court and get them transferred to jails outside Bihar. It’s known that they run their mafia from inside the jail.

? Fast-track chargesheets and arrange for special trial.

? Set up special task force to arrest criminals absconding for a long time.

? Use the law to attach properties acquired by the criminals. This is the only effective way out.

? Identify politicians and police officials who patronize criminals and initiate action. There’s a lot of evidence available.* Ensure that no person directly or indirectly associated with crime and criminals gets government contracts. Economic leverage to criminals must be stopped.

See online : The Indian Express

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