Koneru Krishna has company. At the other end of Telangana state.
A day before Krishna’s temerity to assault a forest officer in Asifabad was captured on camera, Telangana Rashtra Samiti MLA Vanama Venkateswara Rao and his son Raghavender had allegedly abused a forest official in Khammam district. The matter was not reported and it was only when the forest staff heard the news of Krishna being asked to resign by the TRS leadership that they lodged a complaint with the police against Rao. The complaint also names three supporters of Rao who reportedly have a reputation of land grabbing in the district.
According to details available from Khammam, Rao, Raghavender and their supporters obstructed the forest staff bid to build a wall to protect forest land. Like in Asifabad, tribals here contended that it was their land. Rao allegedly intimidated the forest staff and closed the pit that was dug to lay the foundation of the wall.
If the two instances are anything to go by, it is obvious that sub-regional chieftains in the districts wield enormous clout, disproportionate to their stature as public representatives. So drunk on power they are that government officials have to either turn a blind eye to their shenanigans or pay a price for standing up to them.
This is the problem in every state where the ruling party commands absolute majority. With absolute majority comes absolute arrogance. And unless the top political leadership ensures such behaviour will not be tolerated, government officers trying to do their work honestly will always be easy targets.
The silver lining is that Sarsala village in Asifabad has sent across a message by undertaking plantation at exactly the same spot where forest officer Anitha was assaulted by Koneru Krishna and his supporters. On Monday, 700 forest staff planted saplings on 20 hectares of degraded forest land in the presence of 300 policemen.
While the Telangana police reacted swiftly to the public outrage over the attack on Sunday by suspending a DSP and a circle inspector, it needs to ponder over the inability of the cops to stand up to the men in white. The motto of friendly policing is fine but the police need to remember that citizens ought to come first, not the politicians.