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28 Oct 2020, Edition - 1933, Wednesday

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The Daily Fix: ‘Anti-Romeo squads’ and meat drive set the template for Yogi Adityanath’s reign

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Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

Rohan Venkataramakrishnan

The Big Story: Look away

Uttar Pradesh’s new chief minister Adityanath, known to his followers as “yogi”, has not been out of the headlines ever since he was picked to run India’s most populous state a week ago. Adityanath has handed out portfolios to his council of ministers, presided over his first cabinet meeting and even had the time to conduct a surprise inspection of a police station.

But the news about Uttar Pradesh’s new chief minister focused on two things: “Romeos” and meat. Days after Adityanath took charge, the state police announced it would be forming “anti-Romeo squads”, fulfilling a campaign promise made by the Bharatiya Janata Party. These police personnel supposed to prevent “Eve-teasing”. But incidents from across the state have suggested that in addition to trying to prevent women from being harassed, these squads have also been given to moral policing.

Adityanath also ordered action against illegal slaughterhouses, with news of raids and closures coming in from all over Uttar Pradesh. This in part is thanks to the red tape involved in actually running a slaughterhouse in the state – meaning most that were operational would likely have been violating one of the 24 laws governing the industry.

Those are not the only things Adityanath has done. Under him, the police have suspended 100 “errant” police officers, banned plastic, paan masala and tobacco in government offices and suspended all new appointments from the Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission citing irregularities. More decisions are expected at another Cabinet meeting on Friday.

Yet the “anti-Romeo squads” and the meat drive have made the most noise, and Adityanath as well as the BJP have been happy to let them. Both of the issues were campaign promises. The fact that they have also encouraged violence – witnessed in the burning of meat shops and the harassment of couples on the streets – has not been taken up by the new chief minister, despite his promise to improve law and order in the state.

This week might, in fact, set the tone for what Adityanath’s tenure is going to look like. The media focuses on the moves that offer the most fodder for the culture war narrative that the BJP would like to push, while the chief minister’s cabinet begins to move forward on other policy matters with very little scrutiny.

Of course, neither “anti-Romeo squads” nor the meat drive are distractions: The former legitimises moral policing and the latter could endanger thousands of jobs unless the government improves regulation and helps the industry to moderise. But the focus on these moves – which the BJP sees as positive even if the English-language media thinks otherwise – takes the focus off the tougher questions on how the government is going to improve Uttar Pradesh’s woeful debt situation, its farmer crisis, unemployment problems and overall industrial malaise.

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Punditry

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A leader in Hindu Business Line says that, while the crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses in Uttar Pradesh may be justified, it should have come with a plan to modernise and regulate the sector.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own.

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