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Mumbai gangrape: The numbers reveal how states failed to tackle rape

The anger and the outrage over the Mumbai gang-rape incident is palpable, hanging thick in the monsoon air. If the feudal overlords who pass themselves off for democratically elected and selected guardians of freedom, liberty and justice had a knife, they could cut through it.

Right now though, they are just biding their time in the hope that this too shall pass.

It always does.

The S.O.P, after all, has been clearly laid down, refined and perfected after decades of practice –

Step 1: Do nothing
Step 2: After some time, continue doing nothing.
Step 3: Wait for the next incident to happen and let the initial outrage blow over.
Repeat Steps 1 through 3.

Once this cycle has been repeated 10 times, the S.O.P then goes as follows:

Invert all arguments and start blaming society - with a little the help from intellectuals, professors and TV anchors, who quite often, pour from empty into void. The unstated intent is to peddle collectivized guilt and make everyone “introspect” so as to turn the attention away from those who were tasked with specific responsibilities i.e., the Government. Inordinate intellectual discourse embellished with some high-minded customary platitudes - the thinking goes – can, after all, atone for the mind-mangling absence of actionable ideas. Furthermore, this creates a desirable scenario [for those waxing ineloquent] wherein we are all driven into deep depression on account of the paralyzing torment and remorse for crimes that we have not committed.

Is our police really equipped to deal with crimes against women? AFP

Is our police really equipped to deal with crimes against women? AFP

Once these folks who are intoxicated with the exuberance of their own verbosity finally shut up, one notices with a certain predictable dismay, that it was a part of the “doing nothing” trick defined in the S.O.P above. The psychobabble surrounding this “doing nothing” does dance at the edges of important issues like gender sensitivity, upbringing, education, employment, social mores, culture-linked factors etc, but rarely does it extend into the realm of concrete, actionable and time-bound recommendations. All noise, no signal – which is a pity.

So life goes on – and gets worse.

The other route to reducing crime [including rape] in the country is to examine the robustness of administrative and legal deterrents, to identify specific gaps in the enabling infrastructure and draw the attention to concrete and actionable recommendations – which is what I intend doing in the sections below.

The power to act, however, still rests with those whom we elected to govern this nation.

First. What is the strength of the police force in India?

Compare this Police-Population ratio with global norms - 220 as laid down by the United Nations, 220-280 as followed by Sweden, Norway, Canada, Australia and USA. How do we expect to prevent and combat crime without adequate manpower on the ground?

Can the various State governments draw up a plan [in 60 days?] on how to improve the scenario on the metrics defined above? Can such a plan be then implemented within a defined and agreed upon timeframe? Is 12 months enough to get the process underway? Will it have a positive impact on reducing crime in the near term?

Let me also draw your attention to 4 other metrics-

- Rate of crime [per 1 lakh population] – IPC  : 192.2

- Rate of crime [per 1 lakh population] – SLL : 324.5

- Training expenditure %age [of total budget] : 1.64%

- No. of Mobile Forensic Science Vans: 378 [for a Country that covers about 3.2 million sq.km, with a population of approximately 1.3Bn]

Does it take too much intelligence to figure out what are the actionable points here?

Second. There is also a strong case for the police to be given more independence from the state’s political machinery. The SC is on record, saying that “many of the deficiencies in the functioning of police had arisen largely due to an overdose of unhealthy and petty political interference” before concluding that it was important and in interest of the nation to “insulate the police from political interference”.

Furthermore, the SC had issued 7 very specific directives on Police Reforms in 2006 – could we have an audit for each State as to what has been the compliance level on each of those 7 directives?

A few more important and critical issues [training, sensitisation, infrastructure, evidence gathering and investigative skills etc] were spelt out in greater detail elsewhere  a few months ago. Please do go through those as well.

Third. One of the reasons for the anger/outrage is that justice is rarely delivered within a reasonable period of time. This section will attempt to focus on a few, if not all, metrics that explain why the wait for justice in this blessed nation is akin to waiting for Godot.

What further exacerbates matters is that we fare abysmally on another metric, and one that directly leads to the alarming rates of pendency that beset the Criminal Justice System – the Judge:Citizen Ratio. The ratio currently stands at approximately 14 Judges per million citizens, the global norm being approximately 100. Admittedly, this is not the only contributory factor, but it is a critical one nevertheless.

The powers that be are aware of these statistics, yet chose to do nothing to address the issue. The adverse effect of delay on the society at large is immeasurable. The fear of law and the faith in the criminal justice system is eroded irretrievably”, notes a Law Commission Report.

In fact, in 2002, the Supreme Court directed the government to increase this Judge:Citizen ratio in a phased manner to 50 – follow-up action is conspicuous by its absence, as evidenced by the fact that the actual ratio has barely improved over this 11 year period [up from 11 to 14].

Furthermore, a review report titled Judicial Impact Assessment, submitted in 2008 to H.R.Bhardwaj, notes:

“In the last two Five-Year Plans, the allocation was 0.071%, 0.078% and in the present Plan it is 0.07 %. With such small allocations for the judiciary, it is not clear how the situation can be improved”.

Such tightfistedness directly impacts the judicial infrastructure that the country needs. While this is obvious to most of us, the high and mighty decision-makers appear to be in a state of near-perpetual somnolence on such matters.

Afterthought: Rule of law, fear of law and other such desirable administrative deterrents/tools for preventing and fighting crime have been rendered toothless over the past few decades.  After all, as I noted elsewhere a few months ago, India is clustered with countries like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Nepal, Senegal, Congo & Malawi on the Freedom Index; when it comes to Personal Freedom, we again find ourselves bunched together with nations like  Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Togo & Nigeria.

Will the government(s) start doing what they were elected to do – govern?

Twittering tittle-tattle: @ShiningPath1