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Do MP MLAs really need gunmen with carbines?

By S Niazi in Bhopal
February 05, 2009 14:50 IST
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For the newly-elected legislators of Madhya Pradesh, moving around with security cover has become a much sought after status symbol.

Bharatiya Janata Party legislator Arvind Bhardoria was elected for the first time from Madhya Pradesh's Chambal region. He defeated Congress heavyweight Satyadev Katare in the electoral battlefield. But the legislator now needs a gunman to visit his own people.

Obviously, Bhadoria is ready to fight terrorists, but with a gunman on his side. The government has agreed to provide him one.

"I belong to Chambal's ravines, which are home to dreaded bandits. I require protection and for that a gunman is needed,"" he says.  

On the security issue, both Congress and BJP legislators are on the same turf. Out of total of 230 legislators, all except seven have sought gunmen. The legislators, who have been re-elected, already have gunmen. Most veteran legislators now want more than one gunman.

However, the legislators' requests don't end there. They don't just need gunmen, but gunmen carrying carbines or automatic weapons.

Every legislator has his justification for seeking security. Independent legislator Sanjay Shah says, "I asked for a gunman because I was an independent candidate and I faced threat from some people. I do not think it is proper to name them. But the threats, which existed during election time, persist even today. I have quit two big parties. There are, naturally, some people who might be nurturing a grudge against me and they can go to any extent to harm me."

Another legislator, Yashpal Singh Sisodia, fears the Kanjars (a criminal tribal-based group in Rajasthan).

He says, "When I travel from Bhopal to Mandsaur, I pass through a region of Rajasthan that is inhabited by the Kanjars. Kanjars indulge in criminal activities in areas bordering Madhya Pradesh, especially in Mandsaur district. I need security."

Many of those who avail security cover do not simply need them. In Madhya Pradesh, beneficiaries of security continue to drain the state's resources.

About 1,000 employees in the police department were deployed as gunmen for newly-elected legislators. Some of them have up to half-a-dozen gunmen. Parliamentarians have been provided two gunmen, while Union ministers have three to six gunmen. About 80 legislators, who have been re-elected for second or third time, have two to four gunmen.

However, not everyone wants security. Exceptions like Umang Singhar of Congress and Aatmaram Patel who defeated former Congress state president Subhash Yadav, say they face no threat or danger from anyone.

The chief minister talks about shortage of police force during meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He talks about launching a campaign against terrorism. But he has no answer to the question why his MLAs are clamouring for gunmen in a state, which is known as an island of peace.

The population of Madhya Pradesh is around 6.5 crore, but the state has only 80,000 cops. To paint a clearer picture, for every one lakh people in the state, there are only 118 policemen.

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S Niazi in Bhopal
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