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THE Supreme Court has floated the idea of making state governments pay the Railways for the damage suffered by it during violent agitations. The money may subsequently be recovered from parties or individuals responsible for damaging the public property. The suggestion probably stems from the frustration courts have experienced in fixing responsibility for such losses in the past. The instant case was of the Jat agitation that followed the Mirchpur incident. Jats in Haryana caused losses during the job reservation stir too. Before them, the Gujjars in Rajasthan had caused extensive damage to railway property in 2007. As no one has ever paid for the losses, it is the Railways that ends up bearing the cost. Causing damage to public property should be treated as an anti-national act.However, even if we provide for sponsors of violence to pay for the damage, questions will remain first regarding fixing responsibility, and then... Read more...
making them pay for it. There already exists the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984, that provides for jail up to five years, a strong enough deterrent if applied. This law has thus far failed to serve its purpose because of lack of political will, which would come into play even when we make perpetrators pay in cash. Most agitations are allowed to turn violent in the first place because they are political in nature, and the governments of the day indulge more in appeasement than implementation of law. Ironically, India is a country where a man no less than Mahatma Gandhi has demonstrated — and successfully at that — what a non-violent agitation can achieve. And he did it under a colonial ruler. It is a shame that today’s political parties — all hope to run the government one time or the other — fail to show people the endless means of redress available within our democratic system. If the system fails to deliver justice, the need is to strengthen and apply corrections from within, not attack it as outsiders. In a democracy, there are no ‘us and them’.