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Why do our netas need to brandish guns when they roam with police protection all the time? And when there are several criminal cases pending against MPs, the government itself has sold these guns to them
Vithal Radadiya, a Member of Parliament (MP) belonging to the Congress party, from Porbandar in Gujarat, has been caught on camera pulling out a gun, brandishing it and threatening employees at a toll plaza near Vadorara.
But what is surprising is the Union government itself has sold 756 guns to MPs and VIPs since 1987. Out of the 82 MPs who bought guns (seized by the Customs Department) from the government between 2001 and 2012, around 18 MPs had pending criminal cases, including charges of murder, attempt to murder and kidnapping, when the guns were sold!
EAS Sarma, former secretary of the Government of India (GoI), has asked the authorities to launch a campaign to revoke all gun licenses and withdraw all weapons as a measure to reduce criminality across the country.
Mr Sarma, in a letter to RK Singh, home secretary, GoI, said, “If someone needs to be empowered in India against the mafia and the money power, it is the ordinary citizen that stands totally helpless. He or she cannot approach the authorities for a gun license or a gun. I hope your ministry will act fast on this before another arrogant MP brandishes his weapon against another voiceless citizen!”
“There are more fundamental questions that arise from such unsavoury instances of political arrogance among our legislators and other VIPs and the concessions they claim as a matter of right,” he said.
Quoting information procured by Ambarish Pandey, a Right to Information (RTI) activist, Mr Sarma raised some questions...
1. Why should such guns be sold only to MPs when several of them already have police protection?
2. When several MPs have serious criminal cases against them, including 13 with serious cases, why are guns sold to them?
3. Why should the policy of allotment of guns be discriminatory against ordinary citizens, in favour of the legislators?
4. Does the government track the possession of such guns after some years to check if those who were sold such guns still have them in their possession? It is well known that the black market price for such guns is much higher than what the government sells it for.
5. When a person ceases to be a legislator, should not the government withdraw the gun from him or her and revoke his or her license?
6. In the first instance, why should guns, especially the prohibited type, be given at all to anyone including an MP, unless it is the policy of the government to promote crime and gun-touting as status symbols of a democracy in which we live?
Mr Pandey has filed an RTI on sale of guns to MPs and VIPs. The reply received by him was analysed by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NCW). Here are the highlights of the analysis...
• A total of 756 guns were sold to MPs and VIPs between 1987 and 2012.
• A total of 675 guns were sold between 1987 and 2001, 39 between 2001 and 2004, and 42 between 2005 and 2012.
• Between 2001 and 2012, 82 MPs have purchased guns from the government.
• 18 of these 82 MPs who were sold guns have pending criminal cases against them, including charges of murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping etc., at the time of sale.
• Amongst the 82 MPs who have been allotted guns from the government, Atiq Ahmed from Uttar Pradesh has 44 criminal cases including charges of murder, attempt to murder etc, followed by Abu Asim Azmi from Maharashtra and Rakesh Sachan from Uttar Pradesh with seven cases each.
• These are guns seized by the Customs and then sold to MPs and VIPs on a first-come-first-served basis. In earlier years these guns were sold well below market price. Recently the price was hiked to include tariff.
Commenting on the data received through a RTI, Mr Pandey said that “This centralised sale point for VIPs under the finance ministry allows the government to follow an ad hoc, discretionary and opaque policy of allotment. For example, a gun was denied to ex-DG, Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, SPS Pundir despite the fact that his vigilance-related work posed a security risk but allotted to another officer doing a desk job.”
“The evidence shows over 40 exceptional allotments out of a total of 800,” Mr Pandey points out.
Here is the analysis carried out by ADR and NCW...