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   Criminal Tribes of Punjab
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
09 May 2010

Try asking a simple question to a heterogeneous group: who is the free-roaming criminal in our society? Even before the question gets completed, the answer starts floating in the air. One is surprised if it would not be a 'politician'? One of the highly protected tribes that is rarely hounded by the forces of law even though records confirm that a sizeable number of honorable members of the legislative have consistent criminal records.

At the other end, there are tribes whose children are condemned 'criminals' much before they are born. For their failure to understand nomadic lifestyles, the imperial rulers assumed such communities to be thieves and dacoits and dubbed them criminals under the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. Freedom from the British didn't change much for such 150 tribes; these were hounded by the police under the Habitual Offender's Act of 1952.

Words may have changed but the text remained much the same as the new piece of legislation continued to negate the universally proclaimed principle that 'all human beings are born free and equal' and gave the police wide powers to not only arrest them but to control and monitor their movements too. No wonder, the economic upturn in the recent past has meant little for such tribes as they continue to languish at the lower end of the growth spectrum.

Criminal Tribes of Punjab provides insights into the socio-anthropological existence of seven criminal tribes in Punjab, which bear close resemblance to the condemned existence of similar tribes in the country. The book critically discusses the issue of criminality as also it captures the brewing resentment of exclusion amidst them. Using development as an indicator, the book argues in favor of repealing the Habitual Offenders Act for affectively rehabilitating such ostracized communities. The book is a timely narrative on a rather neglected section of the society which, contrary to Macaulay's assessment, has a rich cultural legacy.

Criminal Tribes of Punjab: A Socio-Anthropological Inquiry
by Birinder Pal Singh (Ed), Routledge, 151 pages, Rs 595

 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
Devinder Sharma
Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
Sudhirendar Sharma
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