Pick up distress calls in 15 secs: MHA plan for Emergency No 112

A distress call on emergency number ‘112’ should be picked up in 15 seconds and ensure that the satisfaction level of callers should be more than 85 per cent

The Union Home Ministry is setting strict quality parameters for state governments for running call centres under ‘Nationwide Emergency Response System’ and has come out with a detailed guideline.

The proposed emergency number is likely to be operational next year and the government hopes that it would be of benefit for women in distress. At present, India has three emergency services 100 (Police), 102 (Fire) and 103 (Ambulance), which was designed at the time of a regulated telecom sector with only one telecom provider across India.

As per the guidelines, the number of calls not attended by emergency vehicle should be less than five per cent of total distress calls. A Home Ministry estimate has earlier said that it is expecting five lakh calls per day in the first year of operation while it is expected to double in the next five years.

The Ministry is expecting an increase in number of calls to the call centre by 10 per cent increase every six months, according to the guidelines.

The average satisfaction score of citizens collected through feedback calls, text messages and other means should be more than 85 per cent while no caller should have to wait endlessly for response to their call.

Another feature is the random audit of recorded voice conversation of the call receiver and distressed citizen on clarity of voice, handling of situation and tone of voice. The call quality score based on voice audit process should be more than 80 per cent.

To boost the morale of the workforce, a quarterly award to the best performing call taker, dispatcher and supervisor should be given.

The project, under the Nirbhaya Fund, named in the memory of the December 16 gangrape-murder victim of Delhi, is aimed at meeting the current challenges being faced by police forces in the absence of an immediate emergency response system, specifically inclined towards women issues.

The states will have to submit a detailed proposal to the Home Ministry about their hardware and software requirement for running the call centre.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 23, 2015)

South India tops child marriages chart

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Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have earned the ignominy of topping the chart of child marriages in India.

The Crime in India 2014 report depict a worse picture of south India as five states from the region — Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana — together account for almost half of the 280 cases of child marriage in the country.

However, the data shows the biggest lacuna in enforcing Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. The 2014 figure does not provide the correct picture on child marriage scene India as the Women and Child Development Ministry itself acknowledge that the most recent data available shows that 43 per cent of women aged 20-24 were married before the age of 18.

It also shows that the enforcement agencies are not working properly to address one of the biggest social evils. The ill effects of child marriage have been documented in government’s National Strategy Document on Prevention of Child Marriage, which says that it denies a child the basic right to good health, nutrition and education.

“Evidence shows that early marriage makes girls more vulnerable violence, abuse and exploitation,” it had said.

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Tamil Nadu topped the list with 47 cases in which 47 children were the victims while Karnataka had 44 cases in which 45 children were victims. These incidents came despite both the states have impressive literacy rate at 75.60 per cent (Karnataka) and 80.33 per cent (Tamil Nadu).

Kerala had 19 victims, Andhra Pradesh 16 and Telangana another 13.

West Bengal, which could boast of a string of social awakening movements including that of Raja Ram Mohan Roy who was against child marriages, reported 37 such cases last year.

Gujarat (16 cases and 21 victims), Haryana (15 and 15), Madhya Pradesh (14 and 14) were other major states where child marriages were reported. In the national capital, there were two cases reported in 2014.

None of the north-east states reported child marriages. Jammu and Kashmir, Goa and Uttarakhand are other states were no such case was reported.

Activists said the numbers from north India did not provide the correct picture as many cases went unreported to police. They claimed even police sometimes turn a blind eye to such cases.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 20, 2015)

28 honour killings in 2014

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Numbers may be less but killing to save family honour is still on despite a campaign against it with the country reporting 28 cases last year.

In the latest ‘Crime in India 2014’ report prepared by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of 7 honour killings while Punjab and Maharashtra reported five cases each.

This is the first time the NCRB is recording the murders under the ‘honour killing’ category.

The figures dispel a perception that honour killing is a north Indian phenomenon and the southern part of the country is not affected by it with Karnataka and Puducherry finding space in the ignominious list.

Jammu and Kashmir reported three such cases while Karnataka, Puducherry and Gujarat reported two each cases. Haryana and Uttar Pradesh had one each such case.

However, activists believe that the numbers would be more as there could be cases, which were not identified by police as honour killing and that couples become victims as there is no institutional help.

In May 2011, Supreme Court held honour killings as a slur on the nation and termed it a “barbaric, feudal practice” that ought to be stamped out. It directed courts to view such cases as in “rarest of rare” category for awarding death penalty to the convicts.

The UPA government had initially planned to bring a separate provision in the Indian Penal Code to deal with honour killings but dropped it owing to differences. The draft IPC and Certain Other Laws (Amendment) Bill 2010 planned to bring murders for bringing “dishonour” to caste or family through marriages under the ambit of honour killing.

The Law Commission also later felt that there was no need to alter the definition of murder under Section 300 of IPC to deal with honour killings.

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Of the 33,981 murders that happened in the country, 1,307 lost their lives due to love affairs and another 1,196 due to illicit relationships. Property disputes resulted in 2,771 murders while personal enmity led to 2,912 murders across the country.

Uttar Pradesh reported the highest number of murders at 5,150 followed by Bihar (3403), Maharashtra (2,670), Madhya Pradesh (2,274) and West Bengal (2,217). Karnataka had reported (1,636) such cases.

The report also flagged concerns over the rising number of murders of senior citizens. Last year, 1,142 elderly people became victims to murderers, with Uttar Pradesh (174), Tamil Nadu (173) and Maharashtra (170) topping the list.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 20, 2015)

1.13 lakh fell victim to cheating, 1.2 lakh cheats put behind bars

Around 1.13 lakh people fell victim to cheating in India last year in 1.09 lakh incidents, which include 797 incidents were loss of money or property were above Rs one crore.

But for such acts, 1.20 lakh found themselves behind the bars, the latest government data on crimes in the country has said.

Rajasthan has recorded the highest number of cheating cases 21,191 in which there were 21,679 victims.

Uttar Pradesh followed Rajasthan but was half way behind at 10,636 cases (10,640 victims) followed by Maharashtra (10,765 victims in 9,959 cases) and Telangana (8,701 in 8,519 cases), the ‘Crime in India 2014’ report by National Crime Records Bureau said.

Karnataka became the second south Indian state after Telangana to find a space in top-five in this category with 7,143 victims in 6,935 cases.

Among the 53 metros with more than 10 lakh population, Jaipur and Delhi had the highest number of cheating cases with 4,634 and 4,119 incidents respectively.

Bengaluru came third with 3,045 cases in which 3,098 became victims. Hyderabad had 2,557 and Mumbai 2,594 cases. Except for seven metros, all others had cases less than 1,000.

With 82,225 cheating cases were pending from 2013, the total cases for investigation rose to 1.90 lakh by the end of 2014.

At the end of 2014, 3.01 lakh cheating cases are still pending in trial courts. Only 146 cases were disposed of by plea bargaining.

Of the 797 cases where the value of property or money cheated was above Rs one crore, Bihar recorded the highest number at 194. Bihar had recorded a total of 5,187 cheating cases (eight among states) in which 5,360 fell victim.

With 98 each cases, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Telangana came second in cheating cases worth more than Rs one crore. Karnataka had 56 such cases and Delhi 78.

There were four cases — two in Maharashtra and one each in Delhi and Punjab — of cheating beyond Rs 100 crore while there were five, whose value was between Rs 50 and 100 crore. A total of 757 cases were of cheating of Rs 1-10 crore.

Among the 1.20 lakh people arrested, 4,150 were women while 1,16,638 were men. Among the cheaters arrested, UP ranked high with 30,486 followed by Maharashtra, Telangana and Karnataka.

Maharashtra arrested the highest number of 715 women cheaters followed by Karnataka at 466.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 20, 2015)

4,192 cases under Sec66A in 2014

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Cyber crimes witnessed a whopping 69 per cent increase in the country last year with the maximum cases registered under the now repealed Section 66A of Information Technology Act, a much-abused provision that went against the spirit of right to free speech.

Police registered 9,622 cases of cyber crime in 2014 as against 5,693 with Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka together accounting for 48.18 per cent of the cases across the country.

Maharashtra was the topper with 1,879 cases, a 107.2 per cent rise from 2013’s 907 cases followed by Uttar Pradesh with 1,737, which registered a hike of 154.7 per cent from previous year’s figure of 682.

Karnataka, the Silicon Valley of India, witnessed 91.4  per cent rise in cyber crime cases from 533 in 2013 to 10,20 last year.

The increase in cases was also reflected in the number of arrests, which reported a 74.3 per cent rise from 3,301 to 5,752.

The ‘Crime in India 2014’ report released by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) showed the maximum number of cyber crimes were related to Section 66A, which was declared void by Supreme Court in March this year.

A total of 4,192 cases or 44 per cent of cyber crimes were registered under this section with Uttar Pradesh (898) and Karnataka (603) topping the list.

The Supreme Court had termed Section 66A as “open-ended and unconstitutionally vague” and scrapped it since Section 66A “arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech and upsets the balance between such right and the reasonable  restrictions that may be imposed on such right”.

UP (371) and Karnataka (375) again topped in the number of cases involving publication of obscene or sexually explicit in electronic form. Assam registered 377 cases under Section 66A.

The cyber space was also used in cheating — 1,115 cases in this regard were registered with Maharashtra topping the list with 671 such incidents.

For several cyber crimes, 5,603 people, including 118 women were arrested last year. Under Section 66A, 2,402 were arrested which included 29 women.

In cases involving publication of obscene or sexually explicit in electronic form, 485, including ten women, were arrested.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 20, 2015)

1,278 arrested under Sec 377

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As many as 1,148 cases were registered and 1,279 arrested under the controversial Section 377 of Indian Penal Code in 2014 after Supreme Court struck down an earlier court verdict that decriminalised homosexuality.

This is the first time that government has tabulated the figures under Section 377. The Supreme Court had in December 2013 struck down a 2009 Delhi High Court order that decriminalised Section 377.

According to Crime in India 2014 prepared by National Crime Records Bureau, Delhi recorded the highest number of 194 cases under Section 377. Haryana with 143 cases followed Delhi.

Uttar Pradesh recorded 137 cases while Madhya Pradesh had 128, Kerala 122 and Maharashtra 102 cases.

Under the controversial section, which the LGBT community demands to be scrapped, 1,279 people, including 14 women, were arrested.

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Of this, 177, all male, who were taken into custody were aged below 18 years while 639, including women, were in the age group of 18-30 years. 365 were in the age-group of 30-45 years and 89 in 45-60 years while nine were above 60 years.

Of the arrested, 21 were freed by magistrate even before the commencement of trial for want of evidence or other reasons.

Police also appeared very enthusiastic in chargesheeting those arrested as the figures showed that 1043, including six women, were chargesheeted.

In what could give credence to activists’ argument that many of them are unnecessarily harassed, court acquitted 149 during trial last year while it convicted 103.

In a historic verdict in 2009, the Delhi High Court had decriminalised homosexualtiy but in 2013, Supreme Court reversed it.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 20, 2015)

Clerks will not be clerks anymore!

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Clerks will not be clerks anymore! The government is planning to change the designations of clerical staff in central government, which is likely to give the officers a sense of empowerment as well as prestige.

As per the proposal prepared by Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), an Assistant in Central Secretariat Service (CSS) will be known as Assistant Section Officer.

The Upper Division Clerk (UDC) in the Central Secretariat Clerical Service (CSCS) will be known as Senior Secretariat Assistant and Lower Division Clerk  (LDC) will be known as Junior Secretariat Assistant. The total sanctioned strength of CSS and CSCS is 11,467 and 5,933 respectively.

Concerned departments and stakeholders have been asked to submit their views on the issue by September 18.

An LDC is ordinarily entrusted with work of routine nature like registration of letters, file register, file movement register, typing, dispatch and maintenance of circulars and registers. An UDC or Assistant have a slightly bigger profile.

The proposal for change in nomenclature is initiated in a bid to enhance the morale of work force due to the stigma attached to clerical jobs as they face taunts.

“It is good move. But it should not end here. The problem is that there is change in nomenclature but there is no change in work culture,” a senior government official said.

The official pointed out the change in nomenclature of Class IV employees to multi-tasking staff but the nature of job did not change.

“The change in names did not help them in enhancing their skills. That is a problem. The administrative structural deficiencies remained,” the official said.

The government had in March changed the ‘class’ categorisation for specifying the seniority of its employees with alphabetical groupings.

 While it was classified into I, II, III and IV group services, it was changed into A, B, C and D. The Class-III, in which clerks belonged to, had expressed concern that they are taunted as ‘third-class’ employees due to the categorisation.

In Nov 2014

** Senior officers were barred from using green or red ink while making comments or putting their signatures on files and draft notes, 14 years they were officially sanctioned to use it.

** Amendments were made in the Central Service Manual of Office Procedure allowing only the use of blue or black ink by all category of officers while making notings on files.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 18, 2015)

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