Bhopal: Mishandling turned things from bad to worse

Bhopal: It is for the first time in the regime of CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan that farmers have taken to the streets in such huge numbers and with so much anger in their hearts. And one reason for this is the mishandling of the situation at the very top level. It was due to this mishandling that the agitation turned violent. No one except the CM has the right to take any major decision in the state and that was why no minister or officer took any initiative to resolve the crisis when it began to erupt.

As is his wont, Chouhan tried to wriggle out of the situation by invoking the RSS. Orchestrated negotiations were held with the leaders of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh —  an ancillary of the saffron outfit — at Ujjain after which the CM made certain announcements and it was presumed that everything had been taken care of and that there would peace and order in the state from the next day.

But that was not the end of problem; only the beginning of it. The government had negotiated with BKS, which had no role or stakes in the agitation. BKS could have been used to open channels of communication with other farmers’ body but instead of that the government inked an agreement with BKS, which announced that it was withdrawing an agitation, which, it had not launched in the first place. That added fuel to the fire and the agitation turned violent. The government, meanwhile, could not even fathom who it should talk to and who could control the protestors.

The police brass was seeking permission from Chouhan to act tough with the miscreants but it was not given. Chief secretary BP Singh directed the district collectors and SPs through video-conferencing to be soft on protestors. Thus, the police were forced to deal with the situation with their hands tied. This led to deterioration of the situation.

And then Mandsaur happened.

As many as six farmers were killed in firing by the police but the government did not even take a symbolic action against the collector and SP of the district. That led to Mandsaur collector Swatantra Kumar being pushed around and beaten up.

The government’s announcement of compensation of Rs one crore each to the next of kin of the deceased was also based on wrong presumptions. The government had presumed that the huge compensation would mollify their kin and the Patidar community. But the message that went out was that the government wanted to purchase them with the blood money.

Chouhan asked the ministers and BJP leaders to persuade the farmers of their districts to agree for a compromise. But factionalism in the party at the district level came in way. The BJP leaders at the local level are now creating hurdles in the way of the police in controlling the law and order situation. The officers are being told that if they act tough on the agitators, they would earn the displeasure of the chief minister.

Many a crisis in the past was also mishandled but this time; the mishandling has cost dear to the government.

Lack of effective bureaucracy

Besides the chief minister, his team of bureaucrats also failed to take the right decisions at the right time. Both chief secretary BP Singh and CM’s principal secretary Ashok Varnaval were at sea on how to deal with the situation and could not render proper advice to Chouhan.

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