Rising crimes speak for poor governance


India has reasons to be terribly concerned about its disquieting Social Index. By the Social Index, I am specifically referring to the rising graph of various categories of crimes which have both social and economic components and they reflect on the quality of governance.

Look at any area of crime graph – rape, dowry, domestic violence, female infanticides, trafficking in girls, drugs and arms and petty crimes, the overall picture is grim to the core. The 2016 data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) speak for themselves.

What is particularly disturbing is the rising graph of crimes against women and children. There has been 82 per cent increase in incidents of rape of children compared to 2015. The highest rise on this count has been recorded in Uttar Pradesh, where figures have trebled. UP recorded 400 per cent jump in child rapes. Madhya Pradesh has witnessed over a 60 per cent rise in sexual abuses of children. The case of Maharashtra is equally bad. In Tamil Nadu, where no case of child rape was registered in 2015, it reported 1169 such cases in 2016. Could this be because of the exit of Jayalalithaa from the state’s political scene on December 5, 2016 after her prolonged illness?

The former Chief Minister was known for her ruthless governance when it came to the safety of women and children. She knew how to make the police accountable for lapses in law and order issues.

The tragedy of the country since Independence has been its poor police outfit, despite attempts at occasional patch-work reforms. Whatever changes have been initiated for police reforms from time to time are far from satisfactory. They hardly meet the changing profiles of crimes in various segments of society.

The NCRB’s latest figures by themselves are alarming. The ground realities, however, could be far worse because of Poor Police Performance we all are familiar with.

Nothing could be more shameful than to see 82 per cent rise in rapes of children in 2016 from the 2015 data. Equally worrying area is the rising graph of sexual assaults on women. The post-Nirbhaya Delhi looks like a lost dream. Delhi reported the highest crime rate against women – 160.4 – compared to the national average rate of 55.2.

Crimes against women rose from 3, 23, 243, in 2015 to 3, 38, 954 in 2016. These include cruelty by husband or relatives, followed by assault on woman with intent to outrage her modesty, kidnapping, abduction and rape. Among 19 metros analysed by NCRB, Delhi, followed by Mumbai and Bengalaru reported most number of crimes against women.

India recorded 106 rapes a day, despite several tough court rulings and tightening of laws to deal with this menace. What a shameful commentary on the deteriorating social environment and on the state of the nation which boasts of its great tradition of respect for women! This underlines one harsh reality: there is nothing like the fear of law and law-enforcing agencies in the country among crime-prone persons.

This prompts me to suggest that we should look afresh at the country’s crime scene and work out a new plan of action. It must be appreciated that everything boils down to good governance, which includes both the tightening of laws and efficient working of the police. There can be no short-cuts to good governance with accountability in critical areas which remain neglected by the central and state governments.

The National Crime Records Bureau has also highlighted several disturbing social and economic trends which must not be lost sight of. We see a rising trend in the number of economic offences like cheating, breach of trust, forgery and counterfeiting, illegal gains through cyber crimes. Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur figured prominently in these areas.

We have also to seriously look at the agrarian distress which led to a series of protests and riots. The NCRB reports suggest that farmers took to streets in large numbers demanding their rights last year with 4,837 riots taking place across the country. The number of riots incidents doubled in 2016 because of shrinking farm lands, failure of crops, poor irrigation facilities, bad seeds, drought, the rising burden of debts etc.

This agrarian crisis, again, brings me to the critical question of governance. For one, India just does not have enough cold storage. Secondly, there is not adequate processing of food to ensure that crops do not perish or go waste, leading to the farmers’ distress.

Farming policies actually need a radical overhaul in varied areas to quell farmers’ revolts. They must not be taken for a ride, whether it is the question of loan waivers or insurance payments! The point which I wish to reiterate is that the rise in the crime graph is proportionate to – rather more than proportionate – if the governments at the Centre and in the states fail to manage grim ground realities, whether they relate to the safety of children, women, farmers’ distress signals or atrocities against Dalits or the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. The country is indeed paying a heavy price for poor governance by the authorities concerned in varied areas of economic and social conflicts.

Looking beyond the 2016 NCRB data, we also must take cow-related hate crimes seriously. IndiaSpend’s database records suggest that 97 per cent of all such incidents have occurred since the BJP regime came to power in May 2014. This is highly disturbing.

According to Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director for Human Rights watch; “Attacks based on race, religion, caste ethnicity in India occur when the attackers believe that they have political cover and will not be prosecuted and punished”. Meenakshi is right. The ruling class must not be party to such crimes. Such an approach would undermine the people’s faith in the justice system and the fairplay of our leaders at the helm.

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