What Crime Data Reveals, Conceals

Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital – what American professor Aaron Levenstein, who died of cancer 32 years ago, said about data may be very apt for the ‘Crime in India 2016’ report released by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) late last month. As usual, newspaper headlines screamed crime capital and rape capital while reporting it. The data spread over 742 pages was interpreted – justified and opposed – by political leadership, policy makers and policemen to their own convenience. One set argued that a rise in crime graph is due to a robust crime reporting system while the other pointed to the lacunae in policing arising out of political interference or abject failure in tackling law and order.

Overall, 48.31 lakh cognizable crimes, including 29.75 lakh registered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), were reported in 2016 recording an increase of 2.6%. The overall crime rate (per lakh population) increased to 379.3 from 374.1 in 2015 and 367.5 in 2014. The number of murders declined while kidnapping and rape cases were on the rise. When it comes to murder, the numbers declined to 30,450 from 32,127 cases in 2015 and 33,981 in 2014. Rape cases saw an increase to 38,947 cases from 34,651 in 2015 and 36,735 in 2014. A total of 88,008 cases of kidnapping/abduction were reported last year, which is an increase from 82,999 cases reported in 2015 and 77,237 in 2014.

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The nature of crimes reflect the society where one lives. While India hopes to leap towards a new high, we still have more than a lakh cases registered by women against their spouses and in-laws for cruelty. There is an increase in dowry deaths. More girls below the age of six years were kidnapped for marriage. Child marriage cases were also on the rise. Sexual assault of minors were another area of concern. Last year, 3.4 lakh cases of crimes against women were registered, which includes around 32% of domestic violence, 25% sexual harassment and 11.5% rape. When it comes to crime against children, there were 1.1 lakh cases, of which almost 80% of them are rapes.

These numbers itself are alarming but activists suggest that these could be just a tip of iceberg as a large number of cases go unreported or police refuse to file First Information Reports (FIRs). They say that there is no political will to tackle it. Reflecting on this, CPI(M) mouthpiece People’s Democracy lamented in an editorial, “victim shaming encourages silence and acceptance on the part of the victim which is further compounded because of the lack of social and infrastructural support. Statements by political leaders blaming women for the violence against them with comments about their clothes, their movements and their friends are pillorising and shaming the victim which only encourages crime.”

While a zero-crime society is a ‘Utopia’, the data points to a serious and still unresolved issue when it comes to tackling crime. Ensuring punishment to the perpetrators always act as a deterrent to criminals, law enforcement officials, policy makers and academicians always say. A reading of the NCRB report, however, show that India faces an uphill task when it comes to police investigation and trial. Our investigators are yet to solve 12.41 lakh cases registered under IPC. The pendency of cases under Special and Local Laws (SLL) like Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 and SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is pegged at 35.38 lakh. The pendency rate as on December 2016 in murder cases is 41.2% while it is 40.5% in human trafficking, 40.2% in 35.5% in theft cases and 32.7% in dowry cases among others. An analysis of Crime in India reports from 2005 shows Indians lost property worth around Rs 85,000 crore to thieves but police managed to recover only articles worth Rs 14,124.39 crore.

At courts, there are around 1.25 crore cases 87.4% of IPC cases and 83.7% of SLL cases are pending trial. Of the cases disposed off by the courts, the conviction rate is at a dismal 46.8% (5.96 lakh) of 12.74 lakh IPC cases for which trial was completed. When it comes to SLL cases, the conviction rate is better at 73.4%. The conviction rate for murder is 38.5%, rape 25.5% and kidnapping 20.8%.

Why is it so? Political and police leadership need to take responsibility and need to answer it too. Police forces are heavily under-staffed and personnel always complain of being over-worked. The Data on Police Organisations prepared by Bureau of Police Research and Development says vacancies in state police forces run up to 21.8%. The vacancies among Constables and Head Constables alone account for 81% of the total vacancies. India does not have enough men to police the streets. It has just 151 men for one lakh population when when the standard set by United Nations is way above at 220 police per lakh population.

The vacancies have added to the burden of police as personnel are forced to work without a break and affecting the efficiency in policing. A government-sponsored study had earlier said that 75% per cent of police personnel claim they rarely manage to get a weekly off while Inspectors acknowledge that their subordinates work more than 11 hours a day. This raises the question how an under-staffed police properly investigate a case. On top of it, personnel are not trained in the latest developments in investigation techniques. Preparation of chargesheet, that becomes the foundation for cases in courts, are also in several cases badly prepared. The lacunae in chargesheets had attracted the ire of courts several times.

What to do? A recent NITI Ayog-sponsored study says a review of the police governance framework, the legal set-up, the issues ailing the police force – all call from making police reforms one of the greatest priority for the country. Government need to recruit more and train police personnel. It needs to implement the recommendations of numerous reports on police reforms, which are carrying dust in the cup boards of Ministry of Home Affairs.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald’s Panorama section on Dec 9, 2017)

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Rise in farmers’ protests show increasing agrarian distress

Instances of farmers taking to streets and clashing with police have risen by almost eight times last year compared to 2014, in what could provide more evidence to growing agrarian distress in the country.

Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka topped the list as latest figures released by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) showed that cases of rioting due to agrarian issues rose to 4,837 from 628 in 2014 and 2,683 in 2015.

The extent of rising anger among farmers could be gauged from the sharp rise in street protests in the past two years, some of which ended in police firing.

Farmers protests2

In 2016, Bihar reported the highest number of such cases with 2,342, almost half of the total cases last year, followed by Uttar Pradesh at 1,709. Karnataka finished a distant third with 231 cases.

Bihar, which was on top of the list for the past three years, recorded only 243 incidents in 2014 but it rose sharply the next year to touch 1,156. The numbers doubled in 2016, according to the ‘Crime in India 2016’ report.

Uttar Pradesh recorded 92 cases in 2014 and 752 in 2015 while Karnataka reported 73 and 52 respectively. For Karnataka, the 2016 figure was a five-time increase compared to 2015.

**********************************************************************

2016

2015

2014

Bihar

2,342

1,156

243

Uttar Pradesh

1,709

752

92

Karnataka

231

52

73

Total (All India)

4,837

2,683

628

 **********************************************************************

Activists attribute the rise in such cases to deepening agrarian crisis in the country where they are not getting enough price for their produce and burdening loans.

Protests against acquisition of agricultural land and inadequate compensation for failed crops among others also add to such cases. They also point to the rising number of farmers’ suicide — from 5,650 incidents in 2014 to 8,007 in 2015 – to buttress their point. Figures for 2016 are not available.

All India Kisan Sabha Joint Secretary Vijoo Krishnan told DH, “police unleash brute force against peaceful protests. Rioting has a negative connotation and farmers are now branded as rioters. But one has to understand that they hit the streets due to unresponsive governments.”

He said these figures do not reflect the actual number of protests because in many instances, police do not register cases as it would be embarrassing for the governments. “They were more number of protests,” Krishnan said adding a large number of protests were held in bigger states like Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand among others.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Dec 4, 2017)

Vote for anyone who can defeat BJP in Guj: Kejriwal

Indicating his keenness to be part of the joint Opposition bandwagon, Delhi Chief Minister and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday asked people in Gujarat to vote for any candidate who can defeat BJP in the Assembly elections.

Kejriwal’s call came at the National Convention at the Ramlila Maidan where hundreds of party supporters have gathered to celebrate AAP’s fifth anniversary.

“I appeal to the people of Gujarat to vote for such a party or candidate, who is best poised to defeat the BJP. Defeating them is very important,” Kejriwal said.

“If somewhere the AAP is winning, then give your vote for AAP. If any other party is winning, give the vote to them,” he said.

The new stand of Kejriwal assumes significance as his party is contesting around two dozen seats in Gujarat where Congress is leading the Opposition onslaught.

While Opposition party leaders like Yadav and Mamata Banerjee had previously attempted to make Congress amenable to accommodate AAP in a joint Opposition platform, it had refused to budge citing the animosity between the two parties in Delhi and Punjab.

Congress accuse the AAP of being a B-team of BJP and its presence in some constituencies could adversely affect the opposition cause. However, with Kejriwal’s latest could be music to the ears of Opposition but it is to be seen whether Congress will walk the extra-mile when it comes to AAP.

Congress has the support of rebel JD(U) faction led by Sharad Yadav whose sitting MLA Chhotubhai Vasava has significant influence in tribal areas. Though it failed to stitch an alliance with NCP for the first round of polls, Congress is not averse to finding a commonground with Sharad Pawar-led party in the second phase.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 27, 2017)

Guj: Sharad faction to fight six-seven seats with auto as symbol

The Sharad Yadav-led faction of JD(U) will contest six-to-seven seats with the symbol ‘autorickshaw’, as they concluded the discussions on seat sharing with Congress.

While an announcement about the seat sharing arrangement is likely to made by Congress soon, sources said their nominees will contest mainly in tribal dominated constituencies where sitting MLA and Yadav faction president Chotubhai Vasava has considerable clout.

The Nitish Kumar-led party, which the Election Commission on Friday recognised as “real” JD(U) following a petition by Yadav faction, is contesting around 12 seats in the state and will fight against BJP, its alliance partner in Bihar.

It will be a show of strength by both factions as JD(U) has fielded candidates in tribal areas where Vasava, who voted in favour of Congress’ Ahmed Patel in Rajya Sabha elections ignoring Kumar’s directions, has a following. Kumar and Yadav had parted ways over the former’s decision to join hands with BJP in July.

While Yadav faction does not see any impact of Kumar’s candidates in the fray, it could lead to splitting of votes in the socialist bloc.

Sources said Congress has also reached an understanding with Sharad Pawar-led NCP and they would get a couple of seats. Congress is still upset with NCP over its MLA voting against Patel and may not accede to all its demands.

Senior Congress leaders and Vasava were holding discussions for the past several days. “Auto-rickshaw is our symbol. We will not fight on Congress symbol…We had our talks with Congress. Congress will now announce the seat sharing arrangements,” Yadav told reporters.

Yadav said the BJP will bite the dust in Gujarat and the party is trying to mislead people using reports by credit agencies like Moody’s which does not understand the pains of people.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 19, 2017)

Jignesh Mevani on Gujarat polls

Gujarat is going through interesting times, politically. An Assembly election is days away. The ruling BJP is facing a tough challenge from the opposition ranks. Three youths — Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mevani — have stirred the political pot and caught the imagination of people. Will BJP bite the dust in Gujarat where it is ruling for an uninterrupted 22 years? Can opposition get its act together? The trio believe so. Mevani, a Dalit leader who rose to limelight after the incident of flogging of Dalits in Una last year, was in Delhi on Nov 16, 2017 and spoke to a group of journalists about BJP, Gujarat and the upcoming Assembly polls. Excerpts:

Why is Gujarat Assembly elections so bitterly fought this time?

Gujarat is witnessing a historic poll. The progressive, pro-poor forces have come together. If Indian Constitution and democracy have to survive, we have to stop the BJP-RSS fascist forces from winning in 201. If you have to stop them in 2019, it is important to defeat BJP in the Gujarat polls. We are in that project and doing whatever needed to achieve that objective.

In what the BJP calls a ‘Vibrant Gujarat’, 14 lakh more people have fallen below poverty line between 2000 and 2014. Malnutrition is rampant in state. Gujarat has fallen in several human development index. Gujarat model is a farce. It is not an inclusive model. If Gujarat model was a success, youths, farmers, labourers and others would not have hit the streets protesting. There is widespread dissatisfaction in Gujarat.

The BJP is shaken and desparate. We can see it when they are talking about the sex life of a 24-year-old Hardik Patel. They cannot beat us and speak about development. That is why they have raised this sex CDs and Ram v/s HAJ (Hardik, Alpesh, Jignesh) in a bid to communalise the polls. They should counter us on development and ideology.

jignesh-mevani-lead-u7a4407_730x419

You three youths represent different sections of the society and are together against BJP. But the communities you three represent have interests which are contradictory to each other. How will you address these contradictions?

One has to understand that there are 97-98 types of untouchability between OBCs and Dalits. Within Dalit sub-castes, there are 99 types of untouchability, according to an earlier study. Despite all this, when flogging of Dalits happened in Una, all sub-castes stood together. I agree there are internal contradictions between Patels and Dalits, other OBCs and Dalits and so on. But we have identified that our principle contradiction is with BJP and not with others. We have identified our common enemy and it has become a unifying point.

At a later stage, I agree, these contradictions within our groups have to emerge. But now farmers, landless people, youth and many other sections are against BJP. There is an unprecedented dissatisfaction in Gujarat. Post Una, there is a substantial consolidation of anti-BJP forces. In rural areas, we are well ahead. I don’t have a concrete answer for urban areas. But BJP which won 55 of the 58 seats in urban areas last time, will have to settle with 35-40 seats this time. My prediction is that BJP will not get more than 80 (out of total 182 seats).

What about your talks with Congress? How many seats you have demanded? Will your supporters contest on Congress symbol?

This is election time and I am a face of the protest. I have met Rahul Gandhi. Media has made our meeting a high profile event. I had then said that we will maintain our exclusive, independent space. I do not extend support to any party. We will continue to ask them to make clear their stand on our demands. Why should we extend support to somebody or go with some party. We have not asked for any seats. If at all we fight elections, it will be as independents and not on anyone’s symbol.

Will you contest?

I am not contesting. Why should I confine myself when I can play a bigger role.

You said you will not announce support to any party. Without naming whom to vote for, will it end up in splitting anti-BJP votes?

Don’t try to make me name a party. My gut feeling is that people won’t make that mistake again (of splitting anti-BJP votes). People have made up their mind. Nothing is going in BJP’s favour. We are not asking for a third option now. Message has gone to the people that BJP has to be defeated. There is no confusion in my stand as people in Gujarat understands who is to be defeated. People of Gujarat knows whom to vote for to defeat BJP. We are contributing to that mood of the people.

The BJP argument is that once Prime Minister Narendra Modi hits the campaign trail, the narrative will change. Do you think so?

Modi has been visiting Gujarat at least thrice a month in the recent times. But nothing has clicked for the saffron party. They had started this Ram v/s HAJ to communalise the campaign. Then they came up with the CD. Out of desperation they are reaching bedrooms of opponents. But nothing has clicked so far. So they will rake up communal issues. We will counter them. If they are going to raise issues like Ram temple or Pakistan, we will keep asking questions on price of petrol, why ‘dal’ is being sold at Rs 120? If they raise love jihad, we will ask why not inter-caste marriages and we will say ‘Pyaar, Ishq Mohabbat Zindabad’. We will ask the Prime Minister about his promise of generating two crore employment per year. I challenge Modi, Amit Shah and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani for a public debate with me, Hardik and Alpesh on development. Time and place, it is their choice. 

(Nov 17, 2017)

Screened at int’l fests, YouTube takes ‘Penile Code’ down

A short film ‘Penile Code’, set against the backdrop of re-criminalisation of gay sex in India and screened at several international festivals , has now been taken down from Youtube citing violation of its nudity or sexual content.

Filmmaker Sharat Chandra Bose (29) is now approaching the Youtube seeking restoration of his debut film on the platform. Bose is now working on his second shortfilm ‘Mundan’ (Tonsure) that looks into the lives of a North Indian couple vacationing in Kerala.

Short film Penile Code

Made in 2014, Penile Code has been streaming on the Youtube for almost two years. It was viewed more than four lakh times before it was taken down. Its removal from a platform like Youtube is quite understandable in today’s time and age. But it is a blatant violation of freedom of cinematic expression,” Bose told DH.

Bose said he came to known about the removal while searching for the link on Youtube for a purpose related to ‘Dialogues: Calcutta International LGBT Film and Video Festival to be held from November 23 to 27. The shortfilm has been selected to this festival.

Shot in surrealistic method, the short film explores the troubles of a young lesbian couple in an Indian city where gay sex is banned, violence in their relationship and their struggle with society. Bose explains that Penile Code tries tries to look into the dynamics of the relationship during the time in India when religious lumpiness is on the rise.

While his first film is tries to explore relationship in the present political times through a homosexual couple, the second one is trying to interpret it through a hetro-sexual couple.

Short Film Penile Code 1

The 14-minute short film Penile Code was premiered at the Kinofest International Digital Film Festival-2014 in Romania. Besides being selected to the Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner and International Festival of Cinema in Italy’s Campania, it also won Innovative Film Award at the YOUKI International Youth Media Festival-2014 in Austria.

“According to me any kind of censorship is not acceptable. Censorship is real threat for those who are aiming at public exhibitions like theatre release and govt controlled film festivals etc. It is the outcome of the fear and ignorance of the state mechanism,” Bose said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 13, 2017)

Also read: https://sheminjoy.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/penile-code-selected-selected-to-cannes-short-film-corner/

AAP’s Rajya Sabha troubles

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) can win all the three Rajya Sabha seats falling vacant in January but intense factionalism appears to be tying its hands to nominate partymen and force the leadership to look for outsiders.

Speculation is rife that AAP may approach former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan with an offer to send him to the Upper House as sources said an informal decision has been taken to deny tickets to any of its leaders.

Though some leaders are claiming that such a move to nominate eminent people would enhance party’s image at the national level, sources said intense lobbying for the posts is one reason why the party leadership is looking at such an option.

Kumar Vishwas, who has positioned himself against Delhi Chief Minister and party chief Arvind Kejriwal, has already indirectly staked claim for a seat while his detractors are in no mood to give him a free hand. Senior leaders Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh and Dileep Pandey, whom Vishwas claim are against him, are among the other possible faces.

However, sources said selecting three from the senior leaders would be a difficult task and it could expose the faultlines in the party once again. The party had just re-grouped after the electoral reverses in Assembly elections and Delhi civic body elections.

AAP, with 65 seats in a 70-member Assembly, can get all the three candidates into Rajya Sabha.

Sources said choosing any top leader could also send a wrong message to the cadre as it be projected as cornering plum posts by a coterie around Kejriwal. Vishwas has been amplifying this aspect that a coterie is trying to fix him while a section has already approached Kejriwal against any move to promote the poet-turned-politician.

After his rebellion earlier this year, Vishwas was made in-charge of Rajasthan but he is yet to get back his clout in the central leadership. At the National Council meet here earlier this month, he was not given a slot to speak.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 9, 2017)

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