NEW DELHI: The big media is circling around Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, even reporting at some length his visit to a police station, but the action in terms of fast implementation of promises is coming from Punjab. Here CM Amarinder Singh, offsetting past reputation of vacillation, is working over time to address the grievances of the people who have thrown out the BJP-Akali combine in the recent Assembly polls.

In fact Adityanath followed Singh who had already declared an end to what is referred to as VIP culture, directing ministers and others not to sport red beacons and jostle for special space on the roads. Alongside Singh has also tried to introduced measures to soften ‘Inspector raj’ although Adityanath has reinforced it by giving more powers to the police to harass young couples under his ‘romeo squads’ that are not detaining eve teasers, but interrogating young couples and preventing them from going out together even for a movie.

Drugs that has consumed a large percentage of the young population in Punjab was a major campaign issue and Singh, in a first decision, announced a major crackdown on the drug mafia. An important Confiscation of Drug Dealers Property Act is on the anvil, with Singh directing the Ministers to get cracking on this and other manifesto promises.

Benefits to Dalits, administrative and legal steps to protect Punjab’s water are two other farreaching measures that the state government has taken up almost immediately on coming to power. Interestingly in what is being seen as a bid to end corruption the government has abolished District Transport officers and given the powers to the SDM’s in the state.

The Punjab agenda remains of development with all the schemes announced so far relating to issues concerning all the people in the state with inclusiveness remaining a priority. Singh is an able administrator, knows the state well as he has had a long innings in Punjab.

Adityanath, however, is ruling by fear with the police crackdown on abattoris across Uttar Pradesh driving even small butchers indoors. Lucknows famous Tunda kabas is closed as mobs attacked meat shops in Hathras, and the UP police moved to seal not just all that they could amidst fear, and deep concern as the move will place thousands out of employment and a livelihood in the state.

The ‘romeo squad’s now formed with the police, and under the Inspector General of Police have already started striking fear, not in eve teasers but young boys and girls going for a movie, or walking together. Patterned on the ‘love jihad’ squads that had struck fear across western UP and other parts earlier, the Romeo Squads under the directions of Adityanath now consist of cops. In Meerut district of instance these squads have about four policemen each who roam around, picking up boys for questioning even if they were having a pan or a cigarette. A student told the local media that he was waiting to meet a friend and was accosted by the police who asked for his phone number, and said they wanted to speak to his parents. “They did not even know whether I was there to meet a boy or a girl , for them every boy is a majnu,” he said. He of course, did not give them the right number.

The squads are working outside campuses and schools and in Ghaziabad rounded up over 30 boys in one day. The reason: these boys were roaming outside girls colleges. This moral policing is creating major resentment across the state, with the students still digesting the impact of the move.

In Lucknow those who faced harassment included a young couple who were detained by a Romeo Squad, interrogated and let off with a warning. The girl was asked to go her own way, and not with her friend who later told reporters that they were going to meet other friends, and were celebrating his birthday. He was taken to the police station for further interrogation.

This is the first of its kind, and legitimises the kind of moral policing that was evident in Bengaluru where mobs attacked couples in pubs and public places. This had led to a major outcry. In UP now it is the police leading the charge against young students, striking terror as per the directions from the new CM who has made it clear to the cops that any let up will lead to serious action against them. The state has started feeling the impact as the police has scrambled to set up the squads in each police station. The harassment, a parent whose son was questioned told The Citizen, is “unbelievable.”

(Photograph in the Hindustan Times of a Romeo Squad at work)