Patna: What was seen as impossible is becoming possible, thanks to political determination.
More than 26,000 criminals, including criminals-turned-politicians, as well as lawmakers, have been convicted and penalised in the last three years in Bihar - a development that may help turn the corner in a state notorious for lawlessness.
The high rate of conviction was possible, thanks to speedy trial of criminals initiated by the state government. It is a step lauded by most of the people in towns and villages alike.
When Nitish Kumar came to power on November 24, 2005, he promised to turn Bihar crime-free within three months. He later admitted that it was not possible.
Now, the latest police records show that 26,125 criminals were convicted and sentenced from January 2006 to October 2008 by the fast track courts across the state.
'It was made possible by speedy trial and convictions. The result is also impressive as the state has recorded a decline in incidents of crime, particularly in organised crime, in the past three years,' Bihar police spokesperson Anil Sinha said.
'Speedy trials have instilled a sense of fear in the minds of anti-socials,' he added.
According to the records, during this period 5,616 people have been sentenced to life imprisonment and 1,598 to jail terms of over 10 years. Dozens were also sentenced to death.
A police official of inspector general rank said that 'with hundreds of hardcore criminals, gangsters convicted and sentenced for crimes including murder, kidnapping, extortion, loot, robbery by the fast track courts, it is bound to slow crime incidents in the state.
There has been a sharp decline in the number of abductions for ransom and other crime, including murder, robbery, bank dacoity and road holdups in the state in the last three years.
For the first time in the state, over a dozen MPs and legislators have been convicted and sentenced within three years.
Well-known convicts include Rashtriya Janata Dal MPs Pappu Yadav and Mohammad Shahabuddin, Lok Janshakti Party MP Surajbhan Singh, former Janata Dal-United (JD-U) MP Anand Mohan, his wife Lovely Anand, JD-U legislators Narendra Kumar alias Sunil Pandey and Munna Shukla.
Pappu Yadav, MP from Madhepura, currently lodged in the Tihar jail in New Delhi, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Communist Party of India- Marxist leader Ajit Sarkar.
Shahabuddin, who is lodged in the Siwan jail, was convicted in seven criminal cases, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Sunil Pandey was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the kidnapping of a noted neuro-surgeon in Patna. Munna Shukla was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of G. Krishnaiah, who was then the district magistrate of Gopalganj. Anand Mohan was sentenced to death for the same murder.
The police records show that 6,839 criminals were convicted and sentenced in 2006 by the fast track courts in the state, followed by 9,853 in 2007 and 9,433 from January to October this year.
However, the many convictions have added to the overcrowding in Bihar's jails, where, for the first time, convicts outnumber undertrials. There are over 45,000 prisoners lodged in 54 jails, which together are supposed to hold a maximum of 20,000 prisoners.