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NCRB Crime Data Present a Grim Picture, Writes Former CBI Director

With incidence of homicides hovering at around 40,000, NCRB data presents a grim picture of crime in India.

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There are very few regions in the world where citizens can really relax without being scared of crime in their vicinity. India, the land of Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of peace, is certainly not one them. There is a feeling around the country that we are now actually doing worse on the crime front, and are becoming a very dangerous nation to live in.

The brutal murders of Nirbhaya (2012) in the capital city of Delhi, and Swathy (2016) in Chennai, are not easily erased from our memories, and rightly so. Another shocker came last week when an IT worker was raped at her hostel in Bengaluru by an aggressor who was brandishing a knife.

These were inhuman crimes against hapless women, in an urban setting that offers huge employment opportunities to women of different strata, but also carries risks of great proportions.

Government and police response in such cases is often symbolic with little real results to show. As a result, women professionals — even in places like Chennai which were once hailed as placid and safe — have developed a psychosis that is difficult to exaggerate. The signals that these have sent to potential visitors abroad is also a matter of concern.

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With incidence of homicides hovering at around 40,000, NCRB data presents a grim picture of  crime in India.
(Infographic: Lijumol Joseph/ The Quint)
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Crime Stats Understated

‘Crime in India 2015’ — the annual publication of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) — confirms our fears that we are indeed a highly crime-prone nation.

Overall crime rose to 7.3 million, a 3.4 percent increase compared to 2014. In my view, this figure is hugely conservative and understated. Globally both policemen and politicians have a tendency to play down crime so that they are not blamed by the community. India is no exception.

The small rise in overall crime reported by the NCRB does not factor in suppression of crime as well as a general reluctance to report victimisation. This is why I am sceptical of official statistics such as the one presented by the NCRB. This again explains why we need to ignore the marginal decline in offences against women during 2015.
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With incidence of homicides hovering at around 40,000, NCRB data presents a grim picture of  crime in India.
(Infographic: Lijumol Joseph/ The Quint)
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Rise in Homicides

Continued high incidence of homicides is a matter of concern. An average homicide rate of 35,000 a year has to be considered alongside the large number of unidentified dead bodies reported from different parts of the country.

UP and Bihar have a very high incidence of crime, that too committed with the help of firearms. What is the purpose of having stringent gun laws, if they cannot prevent production of country-made weapons freely available in many pats of north India?

The growing number of murders in Chennai of all places points to a general proclivity to cause physical harm at the slightest of provocation. The rise in contract killing is
a somewhat new phenomenon in large cities.

The easy availability of these professional executioners highlights the lack of fear of the law and the accompanying belief that they can always get away from the clutches of justice.

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Crime Against Women

Crimes against women are a continuing source of worry. A fall during 2015 — of about 2,000 cases in the annual incidence of a little more than 35,000 rapes — is too insignificant to crow about.

You cannot also cast aside the fact that there were as many as 4,000 foiled rapes. It is poor consolation that in a large majority of instances  the offender was known to the victim and no hardened criminal was the perpetrator. The theory that women — whatever be their age — should be wary all the time, even of male friends and relatives, promotes more paranoia rather than safety.

The fact is that danger lurks in the most unlikely of places, and a woman cannot be on her guard all the time. Nevertheless, as I have always said, a measure of self-protective measures does help.

‘Target hardening’, as criminologists would say, should be the key word. This is somewhat analogous to VIP security, where access to the VIP is restricted to known and authorised individuals. This comparison may be funny, but it makes a
lot of sense. Parents and colleagues at the workplace have a major role in making it difficult for any male to misbehave with a woman.

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With incidence of homicides hovering at around 40,000, NCRB data presents a grim picture of  crime in India.
(Infographic: Lijumol Joseph/ The Quint)
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Dealing with Cyber Crimes

‘Crime in India 2015’ dispels an earlier notion that cyber crime in the country is not substantial. It would be unnatural if this were so.

While Internet penetration may still be low compared to the West, the growth of computer literacy is accelerating  and every netizen — be it an individual or an organisation — needs to initiate major preventive measures.

A trebling of the number of reported cyber crime cases may sound alarming. But you have to take into account the galloping e-commerce and digitisation of all day-to- day activities.

In the final analysis, policy makers and the public should understand that statistics have only a limited utility in studying crime trends. What is more important is public perceptions of how the police reacts to individual crimes.

The speed of police response to calls in distress and the cultivation of patience to brief victims on the progress of investigation are far more important parts of police routine. Not many policemen at the grassroots understand the import of this. The blame lies with the poor quality of police leadership.

(The writer is a former CBI Director. He can be reached at @rkraghu1)

Also read:
Can Indian Police Learn to Conduct Professional Investigations?

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Topics:  Nirbhaya   NCRB 

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