Sunday, April 11, 2021

Crime data

The National Crime Records Bureau 2017, after a delay of two years and drawbacks in its compilation, can offer a useful insight to the NDA-government and the state governments to initiate corrective measures for controlling crime. It was not long back that the central government put the blame for delay on West Bengal and Bihar as they were found lacking commitment to send the data and adding more sub-heads for the report compilation. But still the report would require further collation and error corrections in the backdrop of fresh inclusions under the sub-heads like mob-lynching and people considered as ‘anti-national elements’, which have become a new narrative under the government at the centre. The new sub-heads included in the report suggest that data on hate crime besides those related to mob-lynching, killings ordered by Khap Panchayats, murders by influential people, besides what the right groups described ‘anti-national elements’. It is interesting to note that except for the last category, crimes committed by Northeast insurgents, left wing extremists and militants, the other sub-heads are missing in the report, which suggests that the NCRB was not keen in including them. The Supreme Court had, last year, in an order, called for a special law to deal with mob-lynching, and data on such hate crimes would have been useful in both law enforcement and delivery of justice to the victims as well as the survivors. The NDA-government has time and again contended that there was no need for a separate law and has affirmed that curbing lynching was a matter of law enforcement by respective states. Without a proper accounting of hate crimes – as of now there exist only a few independent hate crime trackers based on media reports – the question arises if the government is serious about tackling them effectively. As such some of the law makers of the ruling party have not shown any interest in having a law separately for this purpose besides crimes against women, which appears to be missing from their agenda. It is also unfortunate that the NCRB data on crime hide wide variation in registration of cases of serious crimes related to rapes and violence against women across the states, which makes it difficult to have state-wise comparison on record. The total number of crimes committed against women country-wide increased by 6% since 2016, while those against Scheduled Castes went up by 13%. However, there is the possibility of some states reporting such crimes in a better way. This is pertinent, particularly in rape cases, where the Union Territory of Delhi registered a rate of 12.5 per one lakh population, surpassed only by Madhya Pradesh (14.7) and Chhattisgarh (14.6). But the filing of rape complaints in Delhi have significantly increased following public outcry over the December 2012 rape incident and this could partially explain the high rate reporting of such cases. It has also been believed that reporting of such crimes has been a taboo for different reasons. The fact that Delhi recorded a 40.4% of the total IPC crimes registered among metropolitan cities in 2017 is also likely due to the use of easier (online) means to register them. The other drawback in the report is the use of the census base year as 2001 to calculate crime rates for states and 2011 for metropolitan cities, which make the assessments inaccurate. Despite these issues, the report offers a useful summary of crime in the country. Some crimes, murders for example, do not suffer from registration issues as much. The 2017 report shows that the states in the northeast and others in the rest of the country with a significant tribal population in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha have relatively higher murder rates and this is a cause of worry. Unless the governments are serious in tackling crimes including those caused by economic distress and hate agenda, the report will be an addition in the corridors of power and nothing more.