Governance & Police impunity in Andhra Pradesh

World Bank urged not to make loan

14 December 2003 | Statement

Open statement by

K.G. Kannabiran National President Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties

K. Balagopal Human Rights Forum Andhra Pradesh

The World Bank has become an insufferable governing institution

1 December 2003

The attack on the life of the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh (A.P.) on 1/10/2003 at the foot hills of Tirumala has brought home to even that section of the public of Andhra Pradesh that has never entertained any friendly feelings for the naxalites, the need to have a meaningful and effective policy in the matter of handling the naxalite phenomenon. The tragedy is that the man whose near-death has brought home this realization is least fit for making it true.

The naxalite movement is a political movement. It was crafted by a section of the communist movement which held that the revolution which is their goal cannot be achieved by parliamentary means. It may be that no policy initiative of the Government will alter this belief.

But the movement does not function in the realm of pure political theory or belief. Being a political movement, it lives and functions, amidst the section of the people who support it. These people, like all people who support extra-constitutional movements, have suffered immensely for their support to the naxalites. If nevertheless they have supported it and continue to support it, it can only be because of some serious material or social deprivation they are suffering in society as it is now constituted, and the relief that they find in the activity and the promises of naxalite politics.

A meaningful and effective policy of handling the naxalite phenomenon can only be a policy that will address this deprivation. It is true that the political establishment in Andhra Pradesh has never had such a policy, it is even more true that the dispensation of Chandra Babu Naidu has taken things farther back.

The deprivation that the masses suffer from is because of lack of access to material resources, and social opportunities for gaining such access. A variety of economic and social policy steps are needed to create such access and opportunities, even in a gradualist perspective. If there was five percent of actual action and ninety five percent of mere rhetoric in this regard in the past, Chandra Babu Naidu has declared that even that five percent of actual direct action is out of bounds of Governance, for what Governance does is only to facilitate access to markets and not provision of sustenance, or resources necessary for sustenance. Such a policy perspective has some thing for classes that already have access to resources, the more access the better, but nothing for those who have little or nothing. But it is precisely those who have little or noting who have constituted the support base of the naxalite movement.

Soon after becoming Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Chandra Babu Naidu produced a document titled Vision 2020, supposedly his vision for the State in the coming two decades. It contours have been filled in by the various other policy decisions announced and canvassed in individual spheres of administration such as land use, irrigation, agriculture education, health and labour welfare. If one puts oneself in the position of a person suffering economic deprivation and social discrimination, one can see little in all this to enthuse.

It is well known that the market fundamentalism of the World Bank in the socio economic philosophy of Chandra Babu Naidu, and that he has received ample support from the World Bank in his effort to give effect to it. One of the consequences of this fundamentalism is that resources such as land, forests, water, and nature in general are to be put at the disposal of those who can invest and add further and greater value to the produce there from, and not those who merely live off the resources. In a country like India where vast numbers of people live directly on nature and need access to natural resources for sustenance, this can have a disastrous effect on livelihood opportunities.

Distribution of land under the control of the Government was one of the means by which livelihood resources were put within the reach of the poor in the past. Very little in comparison with total arable land in the country was in fact distributed to the landless, but the trickle kept hopes alive. In Chandra Babu Naidu’s dispensation such land is earmarked for being leased to investors in agri-business, tourism etc and out of bounds for the poor. In districts like Visakhapatnam singled out form tourism development, whole tracts of land are being put out of bounds for people whose livelihood activity is liable to destroy the attractiveness of the habitat for tourism.

Access to forest resources was the principal source of livelihood for the tribal communities and other forest dwellers. While there has been legal restraint amounting to prohibition on this ever since the Forest Conservancy Act was enacted in year 1980, in practice some access was permitted on the sly. This is being tightened up today and the forest dwellers are being coerced into schemes of joint community management of forests which privilege cultivation of commercially valuable species of flora and do not assure a regular income to the people.

Public or community irrigation works – not necessarily large scale – were the preferred mode of providing water for crops from the remote to the recent past. Chandra Babu Naidu has systematically devalued such works and has very actively canvassed ground water conservation as the fulcrum of his Government’s irrigation policy, whose concomitant is private provision of irrigation through energized wells at costs profitable to the private power producers who are proliferating in the State. Indeed, privatization of power production and distribution together with debunking of public irrigation works has had the effect of shutting out the possibility of viable irrigation for farmers of the rain scarce districts of Telangana and Rayalaseema.

The way education and health have been permitted to become flourishing businesses is a particularly vulgar instance of Chandra Babu Naidu’s policy preferences. Vision 2020 goes to the ridiculous extent of identifying these two as areas of investment that can act as growth engines for the State’s economy. No thought was apparently been given to the effect the identification of such absolutely essential life requirements as ‘growth engines’ for achieving a high growth rate for the economy can have on the livelihood rights of the people.

The effect could however be seen in the monsoon months of 2003 when a new form of brain fever identified as meningo-encephalitis broke out as an epidemic in the rural areas of Warangal and Karimnagar districts. Hundreds of children of school going age succumbed for want of immediate health care. Everyone was agreed that proper hospitalization within twenty four hours could have saved the lives, but because of utter neglect of public health, there were just no hospitals available close to most of the villages affected, and the proliferating clinics in the district head-quarters cater to paying diseases – there are specially obesity clinics in a small town like Karimnagar – but none to treat such epidemics that ravage the poor. The World Bank’s health policy prescription, on the other hand, says that Government’s responsibility should be confined to primary health care, the rest to be left to private initiative. This is being toed by Chandra Babu Naidu’s Government.

In the matter of employment, Chandra Babu Naidu’s ‘vision’ declares that self- employment is the best thing, and even for that the Government cannot give much by way of help excepting gratuitous marketing advice: because the main problem is want of capital, and public financial institutions are today no longer in a policy mood to give risky loans to unemployed youth. That is another piece of the World Bank’s wisdom adopted unquestioningly by our country’s rulers. Government employment is being drastically pruned. The World Bank has been promised that public employment will be reduced systematically from one year to the next, and consequently posts that fall vacant in the Government are not being filled, except in the police department. Governance is being reduced to the minimum, and what work is required for that is being taken from contract/casual labour. But the moment these contract/casual labour reach a stage where they may seek regularization of their services, they are being retrenched, and the Courts are reluctant to come in the way of Government’s discretion’ in the matter. Exemptions from labour welfare laws are being given with ease: all Information Technology establishments in Andhra Pradesh have been exempted from the need to follow any fair procedure in terminating the services of their employees, and the Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad has been exempted from the obligation to pay minimum wages to the women contract labour engaged by it to sweep and clean the city’s roads.

The relevance of all this to police impunity vis-a-vis the naxalite movement is that a Government that follows such socio-economic policies cannot have any answer to the political challenge posed by the naxalites. It can only endow the police with arbitrary powers clothed in lawless impunity, or arbitrary laws such as POTA. That the naxalites, more particularly the Peoples War, believe only in paying back in kind makes matters worse.

Killing cadre of the naxalite parties and declaring that they have died in an ‘encounter’ with the police has been a common practice in Andhra Pradesh for more than thirty years now. Not only actual cadre but even suspected cadre and sympathizers have been killed. However, never before Chandra Babu’s government did this killing attain the figure of two hundred victims per year. Even during the Emergency period of 1975-77, when fundamental rights were official suspended, and a number did not cross a hundred and fifty. But what is even more remarkable is that it is in this regime that such extra-judicial execution has been generalized to other classes of undesirable persons, too. There are now at least three such classes who are liable to be killed rather than taken to a Court of Law if apprehended by the police.

One is the foot soldiers in the big game of violent faction conflicts in the Rayalaseema districts of Kurnool, Cuddapah and Ananthapur. The leaders of these factions, who thrive financially and politically on the systematic use of muscle and gun power, are legislators of the ruling Telugu Desam party and its main rival the Congress Party. Most of them belong to the dominant Reddy community. The police provide them with escort and protection. But the foot soldiers in his brutal game, belonging to backward and tribal communities, are liquidated in custody without the benefit of any trial. The second class or category are persons who take to violence against Telugu Desam Party leaders. They are straight away hunted down and killed by the police. The third category are persons accused of being part of professional robbers’ or decoits’ gangs. Most of these gangs are composed of men from nomadic communities low down in the caste hierarchy with little social sympathy. In Chandra Babu Naidu’s regime they are being killed not only before being produced in a Court of law, but also after being remanded to judicial custody by a competent Court. They are liable to be killed on the way to Court from prison to obtain extension of remand or to face trial. Impunity in the form of administrative liquidation has reached this level in Chandra Babu Naidu’ regime.

It is no longer a secret that this Government is encouraging policemen in these unlawful acts of brutality by rewarding them in various ways. The major incentive was out-of-turn promotions to trigger-happy policemen. This was after a couple of years struck down by the Courts as unconstitutional. But special cash rewards, provision of unaudited and unaccounted funds, preferred postings, etc are the other means of encouraging police brutality.

Torture of very severe kinds is regularly practiced by the police of Andhra Pradesh. It began with naxalite cadre/sympathizers, but has now become a general habit. The living quarters of policemen and police guest houses are used as special torture chambers for unlike police stations, these locations are out of bounds to the public. Giving electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body is a routine form of torture used in the course of police interrogation in A.P.

While the practice of custodial torture and extra-judicial was at least not invented by the Chandra Babu Naidu Government, even if it has been ‘perfected’ by his regime, the practice of tempting the vulnerable among the cadre of the naxalite parties to turn into counter-insurgents and permitting them to live on crime and extortion under the wings of the police is a policy given effects to on a significant scale by this regime. Armed gangs of former naxalites turned into agents of the police even while still ostensibly working in their party, and came out with their weapons after killing their own ‘comrades’. If two of them had not died, one (Sammi Reddy) killed by rival and the other (Kathula Sammaiah) in a fortuitous accident, the situation would have been worse.

Jadala Nagaraju, one of the first of these counter-insurgents belongs to Ramakishtapur in Manthani Mutharam mandal of Karimnagar district. He was a member of an armed squad of the people’s war On the intervening night of 11th and 12the April 1998, he shot dead the District Committee Secretary of that Party and escaped to join the police. He was given a handsome reward of Rs.10 Lakhs by the Government, and the police saved him from the law by ‘investigating’ his offence and concluding that it was done in self defence. He now continues his criminal career. He got elected to a local body post (Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituency member) in the Panchayat elections to the middle tier neighbouring village of Khammampalli. At the time of elections to the middle tier Panchayat elections from the neighbouring village of Khammampalli. At the time of elections to the middle tier Panchayat post of President of Mandal Praja Parishad in the year 2001, he abducted some of the electors and forced postponement of the elections. He has a gang of tough-looking young men with him, who move around in fast vehicles and terrorise any one in the villages suspected of having sympathies for the naxalites. But when a case was filed questioning the grant of award to him, the police have been pretending that they are not aware of his whereabouts.

Nayeemuddin of Bhongir in Nalgonda district was once upon a time a People’s War member. He is named as the main accused in the killing of senior police officer Vyas in a daring day light murder in Hyderabad’s Fateh Maidan. The officer was shot dead while taking his morning jog. Nayeemuddin was later arrested, and after spending some time in jail he developed differences with the Peoples’ War leadership and surrendered to the Government from inside jail. His bail was allowed unopposed and he now lives in Bhongir in Nalgonda district. He holds press conferences publicly declaring his enmity with the People’s War and his resolve to kill that party’s leaders if they cross his path. He, however, has a police escort for the reason that he is threatened by the people’s War. He moves around in not less than ten vehicles at a time accompanied by his gang and the police escort. It is estimated that his gang’s monthly expenditure runs to about Rs.5 lakhs, and the police pays much of it. It was he who killed Purushotham, Joint Secretary of Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC), in the year 2001, and it was he who abducted and tortured that organisation’s President Dr. G. Lakshman at Hyderabad in November 2003.

Bayyapu Sammi Reddy, Karimnagar District Committee member of people’s War surrendered to the police and lived for a while in Karimnagar. He regularly threatened and terrorized activists of various mass organizations at Karimnagar, eg. APCLC, Telangana Jana sabha, democratic Teachers Federation, etc. Many of them resigned from their organizations, or left the district and moved to Hyderabad. His writ ran with even the Public sector coal-mining establishment, the Singareni Collieries Company in the matter of award of works contracts. His dead body was fished out of a water tank on 18 July 2003. He is believed to have been killed by a rival in the course of one of the numerous settlements of civil disputes between propertied people that he had undertaken. His wife accused Jadala Nagaraju of having killed him.

All these gangs are regularly approached for settlement of civil disputes since it is known that they carry weapons, have no scruples in using them, and are protected by the police. The late Kathula Sammaiah, one of the first of these counter-insurgents, was running a flourishing business of settling property disputes at Hyderabad with the active involvement of quite senior police personnel. Press reports spoke of these connections giving the names of the police officers involved, in the aftermath of Sammaiah’s death by accident at Colombo airport in Sri Lanka, but the Government has maintained a studied silence.

Since Chandra Babu Naidu has sought premature dissolution of the State Legislature and elections before time on the principal ground of the fight against naxalism, there is every possibility of this impunity rising to new heights. The police are bound to see the decision of the ruling party as a signal to them to cut loose. Past history shows that the response of the people’s War will be to escalate its own violence. Already it has started physically targeting village level cadre its own violence. Already it has started physically targeting village level cadre of the ruling party, killing them for no reason other than that they belong to the ruling party, or it ally the BJP. Its also killing its own cadre with chilling frequency on the allegation that they have turned into police agents. A macabre drama of video-taped confession in custody (or a confession before invited press personnel) is enacted and communicated to the outside world before finishing them off, but that only enhances the cold-blooded quality of the killing. The coming days therefore portend to be quite unpleasant for any one concerned about the basic human right to live.

In these circumstances it has become necessary to insist that the Internal Financial Institutions like the World Bank and other similar institutions to take into account certain facts into consideration before lending money to the governments of the Developing countries. A repressive legal structure, which does not allow room for any dissent or criticism, is a sign of backwardness, as such a state of affairs will not permit any criticism of improper utilization or diversion of the loans granted.. It is not open to any international financial institution to facilitate the growth of authoritarian or tyrannical system of governance. The World Bank has become an insufferable governing institution by using its financial leverage to compel countries desirous of receiving loans to change their Constitutional and/or legal structure. While it governs it is not accountable to the country and its people. Very often the Bank’s consultants “rewrite a country’s trade policy, fiscal policies, civil service requirements, labor laws, health care arrangements, environmental regulations, energy policy, resettlement requirements, procurement rules and budgetary policy”(David C. Korten).

A development process is to enhance their capabilities in all the spheres of life and thus enhance the quality and content of their lives and the loans granted have to be to be for people oriented policies and not for leaders to aggrandize themselves and those elite who support them in power. We would like to point out that the World Bank is not a free Agent and function quite arbitrarily when these loans are for Development. That word as defined by the people will have to be accepted and adopted. It is open to the Chief Minister to make the receipt of loans from the World Bank an issue, in which case he will have to make a public disclosure of the amounts received and the manner it was spent for development and subject it to the country auditor the Comptroller and Auditor General and these should be publicized widely. For working definition of the World Bank’s Role in development we place before the World Bank the very preliminary observations of Amartya Sen in his “Development As Freedom”: “Development requires the removal of major sources of unfreedom: poverty as well as tyranny, poor economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation, neglect of public facilities as well as intolerance or overactivity of repressive forces. Despite unprecedented increase in overall opulence, the contemporary world denies elementary freedom to vast numbers – perhaps even the majority – of people. Sometimes the lack of substantive freedoms relates directly to economic poverty, which robs people of the freedom to satisfy hunger, or to achieve sufficient nutrition, or to obtain remedies for treatable illness, or the opportunity to be adequately clothed or sheltered, or to enjoy clean water or sanitary facilities. In other cases, the unfreedom links closely to the lack of public facilities and social care, such as the absence of epidemiological programs, or of organized arrangements for health care or educational facilities, or of effective institutions for the maintenance of local peace and order. In still other cases, the violation of freedom results directly from a denial of political and civil liberties by authoritarian regimes and from imposed restrictions on the freedom to participate in the social, political and economic life of the community”.

As can be seen from our narrative the observations of Amartya Sen fully apply to the situation in the State. The World Bank operates in public-political space and it has no independent right to operate, as it likes.