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Mafia Raj (lit. 'mafia regime') refers to a criminalised nexus (or "mafia") of government officials, elected politicians, business interests and other entities (such as law-enforcement authorities, non-governmental organisations, trade unions or criminal organisations).
In India (where the term originated) it can refer to cities, states, government departments, public sector businesses or entire sectors of the economy that are subject to these conditions. Due to the ability of these mafias to operate their illegal activities in a sustained fashion, sometimes openly and with the use of violent intimidation, terms like Goonda Raj (rule of the goons), Jungle Raj (law of the jungle) and Anarchy are used to refer to the same phenomenon.
In the Indian and Pakistani media, the mafias are usually mentioned by the name of the economic sector in which they are involved. Terms such as coal mafia, timber mafia (sometimes forest mafia), contractor mafia (sometimes road construction mafia or road contract mafia) and land mafia are commonly used.
The state-owned coal mines of Bihar (now Jharkhand after the division of Bihar state) were among the first areas in India to see the emergence of a sophisticated mafia, beginning with the mining town of Dhanbad. It is alleged that the coal industry's trade union leadership forms the upper echelon of this arrangement and employs caste allegiances to maintain its power. Pilferage and sale of coal on the black market, inflated or fictitious supply expenses, falsified worker contracts and the expropriation and leasing-out of government land have allegedly become routine. A parallel economy has developed with a significant fraction of the local population employed by the mafia in manually transporting the stolen coal for long distances over unpaved roads to illegal mafia warehouses and points of sale.
The coal mafia has had a negative effect on Indian industry, with coal supplies and quality varying erratically. Higher quality coal is sometimes selectively diverted, and missing coal is replaced with stones and boulders in railway cargo wagons. A human corpse has been discovered in a sealed coal wagon.
In June 2012, the Bollywood epic Gangs of Wasseypur was released portraying the coal mafia in the area of Dhanbad. The movie received overwhelming response and was declared a hit. Another Bollywood movie Gunday was also loosely based upon coal mafia.
Protected forest areas in parts of India – such as Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Jharkhand – are vulnerable to illegal logging by timber mafias that have coopted or intimidated forestry officials, local politicians, businesses and citizenry.
Many state-funded construction activities in India, such as road building, are dominated by construction mafias, which are groupings of corrupt public works officials, materials suppliers, politicians and construction contractors. Shoddy construction and material substitution (e.g., mixing sand in cement while submitting expenses for cement) result in roads and highways being dangerous and sometimes simply washed away when India's heavy monsoon season arrives.
In a widely covered case, Satyendra Dubey, a project director with the National Highways Authority of India, was murdered in 2003, allegedly because he had written a letter exposing deep-seated contractor mafia involvement in the construction of a section of the prestigious Golden Quadrilateral project to the prime minister's office. Although a CBI investigative report after the assassination stated that there was no contractor mafia involvement in Dubey's murder, his family and supporters maintained that an attempt at a cover-up was being made.
Attempts have been made to reduce mafia influence by making construction tendering processes more transparent, sometimes by attempting to move them online, so that a complete audit trail of bids and activity is maintained. Construction mafias are alleged to have used their political influence decisively to frustrate many such attempts, for example, in the public works for which the Municipal Corporation of Delhi is responsible.
In cities and villages throughout India, mafias consisting of municipal and other government officials, elected politicians, judicial and law enforcement officials, acquire, develop and sell land in illegal ways for profit. Sometimes, government land or land ostensibly acquired for some legitimate government purpose is then handed over to real estate developers who build commercial and residential properties and sell them in the open market, often with the connivance of administrative and police officials.
In one set of allegations in Karnataka, a lake was filled in and government buildings torn down after illegal transfers to a developer by mafia-connected officials. Eminent domain laws, intended to procure private land at relatively low prices for public benefit or redistribution to poorer people under social justice programs, are abused to pressure landholders to sell land to a government entity, which transfers the land to developers at those low prices, and who in turn sell it back on the market at much higher prices.
Computerisation of records relating to the classification of tracts and land ownership is a key tool in countering the illegal activities of land mafias, since it creates transparency on all information relating to a given parcel of land. This approach has been effective in Bangalore, but efforts to extend it elsewhere have sometimes met with strong resistance by land mafias, manifesting itself as bureaucratic inaction.
Focused vigilance in specific areas by government agencies has acted as a deterrent to land mafia activities. For example, the land mafia in the Noida area, on the outskirts of Delhi, was reported to have illegally begun carving out plots for commercial sale on land identified by the Central Zoo Authority of India as the site for India's first Night Safari park. Subsequent to coverage in the press, vigorous legal action by the Greater Noida Authority reportedly led to this mafia alliance backing away from this theft, although it may have shifted its attention to illegally encroaching on land along the Taj Expressway, connecting Delhi and Agra, which is expected to become quite valuable.
- "Developmental policy of the state, globalisation and prawn aquaculture," Journal of the Indian Anthropological Society v.23, Indian Anthropological Society, 2003: "Mafia Raj is the rule of a group of powerful people usually outsiders from among politicians and their relatives, top bureaucrats and merchants), their musclemen and local encroachers (local non-fisher-folk and also some influential local fisher-folk financed by outsiders who operate in connivance with revenue and police officials)."
- Lok Sabha, "Lok Sabha Debates, ser.11 Jul 29 1997 v.15 no.5, Lok Sabha Secretariat, Lok Sabha (House of the People), Parliament of India, 1997: "This hays also placed the mafia raj in politics and in every sphere of social life in Bihar,"
- Mahendra Prasad Singh and Rekha Saxena, India at the Polls: Parliamentary Elections in the Federal Phase, Orient Blackswan, 2003, ISBN 81-250-2328-3: "The manifesto of the Bahujan Samaj Party sought to highlight four major objectives ... annihilation of the 'Goonda-Mafia raj' and anarchic forces"
- Indu Bharti, "Usurpation of the State: Coal Mafia in Bihar", Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 24, No. 42, pg. 2353. 21 October 1989.
- S. Venugopala Rao, Crime in Our Society: A Political Perspective, Vikas Publishing House, 1983, ISBN 0-7069-1209-8: "Using the vast money, muscle and caste power, trade union leaders have built up a Mafia-like empire which totally controls the life and economy of Dhanbad ... workers who constitute about 40 percent of Dhanbad districts population are mainly tribals, adivasis, Harijans and backward castes, while the trade union musclemen are mostly Rajputs of Bhojpur and Rohtas districts."
- Ajeet N. Mathur, Asian Regional Team for Employment Promotion, World Employment Programme, Industrial Restructuring and Union Power: Micro-economic Dimensions of Economic Restructuring and Industrial Relations in India, International Labour Organization, 1991, ISBN 92-2-107494-3: "According to many workers, it is not possible for genuine trade unionism to flourish in Dhanbad because of illicit trading and profiteering in the garb of trade unionism and the protective umbrella such an institution holds out."
- "Coal theft and vote". Frontline Magazine, The Hindu Newspaper Group. 26 Feb – 11 March 2005. Archived from the original on 18 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-29. Check date values in:
- D. K. Mittal, Coal Industry, Anmol Publications Private Limited, 1994, ISBN 81-7041-863-1. Snippet: "Default on quality, quantity and timely supply of coal have taken their toll on the Indian industry and come in their way in acquiring international competitiveness ... coal ministry officials have themselves observed boulders and dust being loaded in wagons supposed to be carrying steam coal ... checking officials even found the dead body of a person."
- Marcus Colchester and Christian Erni, Indigenous Peoples and Protected Areas in South and Southeast Asia: From Principles to Practice, IWGIA, 1999, ISBN 87-90730-18-6: "The Forest Department is perceived as corrupt, colluding with timber contractors (the timber mafia), and taking bribes from the communities in return."
- Ajay Singh Rawat, Forest Management in Kumaon Himalaya: Struggle of the Marginalised People, Indus Publishing, 1999, ISBN 81-7387-101-9: "within 5 years in the Western Circle, 13 forest officials have been murdered and 39 fatally wounded in their bid to prevent illicit timber trade ... Politicians are chary of getting on the wrong side of the timber mafia, which has proved to be extremely generous during election time."
- "Mulayam Hits Mafia Hard". India Today. 16 October 2006. Archived from the original on 3 October 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2008. "The road sector has always been the main source of income for the mafia. They either ask their men directly to grab the contracts or allow an outsider to take the contract after accepting a hefty commission ... a large number of criminals have been grabbing contracts under the protective umbrella of parties like SP, BSP, BJP, as well as the Congress ... opportunity to refurbish the image of his Government by initiating a crackdown on the mafia-contractor-engineer nexus."
- "Killer roads in India and rethinking the death penalty". liveMint.com, The Wall Street Journal. 1 September 2008. Archived from the original on 25 October 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2008. "this year's rains have destroyed 581 roads in the state with 139 road accidents killing 373 people through 10 August ... they spoke about a road building contractor mafia that pretty much has a lock on many projects for redoing roads—apparently year after year."
- "Satyendra Dubey: A forgotten hero?". Rediff. 27 November 2006. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2008. "Dubey ... was shot dead near the Circuit House in Gaya after he exposed deep-rooted corruption in construction of the Golden Quadrilateral Project. ... It was proved beyond any doubt that Dubey was killed soon after he wrote a letter to the Prime Minister's Office and blew the whistle on the contract mafia. Though he requested that his name not be made public, vested interests leaked his name."
- "Contractor mafia not involved in Dubey's murder: CBI report". Indian Express. 12 August 2006. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2008. " The CBI has reiterated before the Supreme Court that there is no invlovement [sic] of any contractor mafia in the murder of NHAI engineer Satyendra Kumar Dubey."
- "Satyendra Dubey case: 'CBI trying to save culprits'". Rediff. 16 December 2006. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 30 October 2008. "We strongly feel that the CBI was trying its best to save the main culprits or mafia behind his murder and making it a case of simple robbery." ... "We have full evidence to show that the arrested accused in the case by CBI were not the real face behind his murder, Dhananjay said, claiming that the arrested accused were forced by the CBI to accept the crime they never committed."
- "Tender mafia's domination in MCD continues". The Hindu. 3 January 2005. Retrieved 30 October 2008. "For the past two years, Mr. Mehta has been trying to introduce on-line tendering system and mandatory quality test by an independent testing agency. "However, because of the strong nexus between engineers, politicians and contractors, it is the tender mafia which now decides which contractors should get a particular contract," officials said. ... so strong was the dominance of tender mafia that new contractors were not being allowed to enter the civic body."
- K.R. Gupta and J.R. Gupta, "Indian Economy, Vol# 2", Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, 2008, ISBN 81-269-0926-9. "the land market already stands subverted and an active land mafia has already been created."
- "India after busting land mafia organised crime involving former government officials and apartment developers". India Daily. 1 August 2005. Archived from the original on 22 August 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2008. "Low priced subsidised land is being illegally developed ... permits are obtained illegally through a network of mafia style operators that involved the under world, former Indian Administrative Service officers and even the cops ... alleged misappropriation of land in the name of CGHS and selling them at very high rates after construction of flats."
- "Land mafia buries lake, encroaches govt land". Deccan Herald. 10 October 2005. Archived from the original on 16 April 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2008. "The watershed department had built a check dam at a cost of Rs150,000 in 2006 to improve the groundwater level. But the land mafia has taken things into its own hands and got it covered."
- N. Vittal, India: Technology and a vision for the future, The Icfai University Press, 2004, ISBN 81-7881-346-7: "Another law which had a totally contradictory impact was the Urban Land Ceiling Act which provided tremendous opportunity for the land mafia. The poor people who were supposed to benefit in the process were nowhere to be seen."
- Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narayana Madhava Ghatate, Decisive Days, Shipra Publications, 1999: "In villages on the outskirts of the cities, land is being grabbed by force by the lathi-wielding miscreants. This land is public land. Skyscrapers are being built."
- N. Vittal, Roots of Effective Governance, Icfai University Press, 2007, ISBN 81-314-1156-7: "transparency ... was introduced in allotment of sites. The element of discretion involved in this process was removed. The whole system was totally computerised. The allotment details were published on the website and the lease cum-sale agreement was done away with. Absolute sale deeds were issued."
- "A State Unimagined in Law: A Wrong Without a Remedy". Arun Shourie. 26 May 2008. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2008. "For this purpose the Centre formulated a scheme for the computerisation of land records. It pledged to meet the entire expense of the task. About Rs50 million have been given to the State (Bihar) for this purpose; it has been able to utilise only Rs2.2 million! The target is that by December next year there shall be one hundred per cent coverage of "Jot Bahi/Khatta": actual coverage till now? Ten per cent."
- "Mafia selling Night Safari land". The Tribune. 3 July 2007. Archived from the original on 6 July 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2008. "Land mafia is busy carving out plots in the prestigious Night Safari project and selling them at Rs800 per sq mt to gullible buyers. Surprisingly, the Greater Noida Authority is oblivious of this development."
- "Encroachers eyeing land along Taj Expressway". The Tribune. 29 August 2007. Archived from the original on 24 July 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2008. The biggest Mafia is the Congress Party of the Italian and the media specially English and electronic which is in hands of Drug, Organ, Child Traffickers, and prostitution mafia and Xian terrorists"When further action was taken on projects like Javer Airport, Night Safari, Formula 1 racing track, etc, the land mafia and realtor shifted their focus on Greater Noida and Taj Expressway land ... The land along a distance of 160 km from Greater Noida to Agra is not being fully guarded from land sharks, it is learnt."