Easiest way out

The Maoist-led government has made a public pledge of better internal security, and deputy prime minister and home minister, Bam Dev Gautam, vowed the other day that if he could not give the public within six months reason to feel that they were safer, he would quit his post. He also said that the general people would start feeling safer much sooner, and accordingly, he instructed the police chiefs. He also said, rightly, that if the state of internal security could not improve, it would not only impinge on the home minister but at least equally on the Prachanda-led government. There can be no two opinions on this, and citing this very argument, the Nepali Congress had, not unnaturally, claimed, whenever it led a coalition government, the three ministries of Home, Finance and Defence. The present public commitment from the government has been taken favourably by the people, with hopes of better security of the life and property of the citizens.

The police have already started giving signs of their new effort. In the latest measure, they have tightened security in all the three districts of the Valley, under which scheme they conduct searches every evening, particularly on vehicles, carry out other checks in the streets; they have increased patrols, and put more plainclothesmen out to inform on criminals. The new regulation has fixed daily closing times of hotels, restaurants and taverns differently in the three districts - 11pm for Kathmandu, 10pm for Lalitpur, and 8pm for Bhaktapur. As a result, every night, dead silence has begun to reign in the three cities much earlier than before. According to police bosses, those areas notorious for looting, theft, hooliganism, and robbery have been particularly targeted. To check looting inside public vehicles, plainclothesmen are reported to travel in those vehicles. It is the duty of the police to do their utmost to minimise crime in society, and most of the new measures cannot be faulted, provided of course that they are carried out without violating the fundamental and human rights of citizens.

But the police have taken the easiest way out by decreeing early closures of the eateries. This has spoiled the Valley’s nightlife. But even more important, it has inconvenienced the public, at the same time threatening employment of thousands of people who work at night, including in dance restaurants and discos. The new measures incidentally have given some people reason to question whether our police force tend to move into action to beef security only after the home minister’s strict instructions, with insinuations that they had been lax in their peace-keeping duty before. Moreover, it does not require a Bam Dev Gautam to improve public security by closing the ‘market’ early. Anybody could do it. And some might even wryly remark that a night curfew could do the job better. The key test of the home ministry and the police forces under it would be whether it could significantly boost public security by letting nightlife go on. As in the past, there is also the likelihood that these bans would encourage corruption in the police, as they have the discretion to act against or let go of operators who violate the regulation.