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Peace returns; Noida residents count losses
Ehtasham Khan in Noida, Uttar Pradesh | January 21, 2004 08:32 IST
Businessman Rajesh Kumar was sobbing in front of his brand new Maruti 800 car that a mob had smashed during the weeklong anarchy in Noida and Greater Noida on the outskirts of Delhi.
"I don't know who these people were and what they got by breaking my car. I wasted two days because of this," said an angry Kumar, who has a shop in Delhi.
A resident of Sector 27 in Noida, Kumar commutes every day to his shop in Mohammadpur in south Delhi. "Now I will have to make the rounds of the insurance office," he said.
But why did the mobs go on a rampage?
They were protesting against the disbanding of Gautam Buddha Nagar district, which constitutes Noida and Greater Noida.
The two towns are home to offices and factories of several major Indian and multinational companies, which provide employment to the residents of the two towns.
The Nizamuddin Bridge and DND Flyover across the River Yamuna link the towns to Delhi.
The clean, green and expansive towns are unlike any towns in Uttar Pradesh. The Noida Development Authority, an autonomous body, administers the towns while a fairly independent police force maintains law and order.
Owing to its proximity to Delhi, peaceful nature and pleasant environment, many professionals and government officials working in the national capital have settled in Noida, which has led to a booming real estate industry.
With so much going for it, residents were unwilling to sit silent when UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav ordered disbanding of the district, along with eight others, due to 'financial constraints'.
They fear the worst. Before being clubbed under one district, Noida came under Ghaziabad and Greater Noida under Bulandshahr districts, respectively. Both do not have an enviable record on the law and order front.
"Noida will become as criminalised as Ghaziabad and other towns of UP. All the industries will leave this place. Residents will lose their livelihood," said local legislator Nawal Singh Nagar, who belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party.
He alleged that Yadav wants to suppress Noida and Greater Noida because his Samajwadi Party has no representation in the district.
So, since last Thursday, supporters of all political parties, except the Samajwadi Party, came out on the streets, blocked traffic, attacked vehicles, shops and anybody who came in their way.
Four-year-old Sushma of Dadri village was among their victims. Stone pelting mobs had injured her on Monday.
"I was going to meet a relative when I saw people fighting. I had no clue of what was happening. Suddenly a stone came and hit Sushma on the head," her mother said. "Some passers-by helped me take her to a doctor."
About 50 people have so far been injured. Paramilitary forces were called to control the mobs and 100 persons have been taken into custody.
On Monday, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee discussed the issue with Yadav.
Tuesday was trouble-free.
There was a long queue at Cambridge School near Atta Market in Noida. Parents wanted to know when the school would reopen.
"They [school authorities] don't give any proper answer. They say they are waiting for the situation to calm down. It is normal today. Why don't they open the school?" said Naresh Tyagi.
An official said: "If we open the school, the protestors will return. We cannot take any risk."
Close to the school is the district magistrate's office. On Tuesday morning, Nagar was addressing about a dozen people. Disappointed with the small crowd, he spoke for five minutes and left the spot saying, "I am going to arrange demonstrations at other places. We will continue our protest. We are organising a Chetna (awareness) Rally on Wednesday."
Samajwadi Party spokesman Shahid Siddique favours disbanding of the district. "Noida and Greater Noida are developed but others are lagging behind. We want equal growth in other places too," he said.
How clubbing them with Ghaziabad and Bulandshahr would help is not clear but the CM has announced a sop of Rs 11 crore for further development of Noida.
Residents, however, feel small is beautiful. "We will end up being forced to go to Ghaziabad for every small thing, be it a passport or ration card. We do not see any problem with the present set-up," said Ashok Bhatnagar, a retired armyman.
Anwar Alam, political scientist at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, says the disbanding and creation of states or districts is done keeping vote banks in mind.
"Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati created Gautam Buddha Nagar to consolidate the dalit votes in the region. But Mulayam Singh, who does not enjoy their backing, does not see any political benefit in continuing with that arrangement. It is as simple as that," he said.
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