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Violent Crimes And The Pandemic

Context

According to the NCRB’s annual report, “Crime in India,” released earlier this week, registration in violent crimes such as rape, kidnapping, atrocities against children, robberies, and murders increased in 2021 to levels before the pandemic, compared to a drop in 2020.

Relevance

GS Paper 2: Governance/Social Justice

Mains Question

Examine the possible causes of the various crimes cited in the report and shed light on the nature of crimes based on a recent report published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). (250 words)


The Earlier Drop and the Later Scary Data

  • The drop in 2020 appeared to be an outlier, either due to lower registration or a partial decrease in occurrence due to extensive lockdowns and office shutdowns.
  • While violent crimes increased in 2021, the overall crime rate (per one lakh people) fell from 487.8 in 2020 to 445.9 in 2021, owing largely to a decrease in cases registered under disobedience to a public servant’s order relating to lockdowns.
  • If 2020 was the year when India faced the first COVID-19 wave, 2021 was equally tense due to the effect of the novel coronavirus’s Delta variant; the frequency and intensity of lockdowns were relatively lower in comparison to 2020.
  • “Cruelty by husband or his relatives” accounted for 31.8% of crimes against women, up from 30.2% in 2020 and 30.9% in 2019, indicating that domestic violence remained a major problem.
  • Despite an increase in violent crimes, the chargesheeting rate fell from 75.8% in 2020 to 72.3% in 2021, as did the conviction rate (57% from 59.2% in 2020). As a result, in a year with more violent crimes, law enforcement was less responsive.
  • These trends must be read once more. State-wise — Assam had the highest number of violent crimes per 100,000 people (76.6), followed by Delhi (57), and West Bengal (48.7), while Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu had the lowest.

Cases of Suicide

  • The report also revealed that the population suicide rate in 2021 — 12 per one lakh people — was the highest in the previous five years.
  • Domestic issues (33.2%) and illnesses (18.6%) were cited as the primary causes, with the majority of victims being daily wage earners (25.6%) and housewives (14.1%), highlighting the severity of the pandemic and its indirect effects on people.

Other Considerations

  • With India registering the highest excess deaths during the pandemic, particularly during the Delta wave, these figures are not surprising.
  • The 5.9% increase in cybercrime cases registered between now and 2020 reflects the growing use of digital devices and the associated challenges.
  • This increase was more pronounced in rural areas, as cyber crime in metropolitan cities (with populations greater than two million people) decreased by 8.3% from 2010 to 2020.
  • With more people in rural areas using digital devices, including for financial purposes, the rise in cybercrime should prompt the government to make an effort to educate people about the risks associated with cyber activities and to improve law enforcement.

Who is responsible for the publication of the NCRB report?

  • The NCRB was established in January 1986 with the goal of creating a body to compile and keep records of crime data.
  • It reports to the Union Home Ministry.
  • Its functions, in addition to publishing annual reports, include “collection, coordination, and exchange of information on inter-state and international criminals to the respective states.”
  • The NCRB also serves as a “national warehouse” for fingerprint records of Indian and foreign criminals, assisting in the identification of interstate criminals through fingerprint searches.

How does the NCRB gather data for its report?

  • The NCRB report includes information gathered from the country’s 36 states and union territories.
  • State-level crime records bureaus provide comparable data for 53 metropolitan cities, or those with a population of more than 10 lakh as of the 2011 census.
  • State/UT police enter this information at the police station/district level, which is then validated further at the district level, then the state level, and finally by the NCRB.

Problems with NCRB data

  • The NCRB admits that its data has limitations, which it acknowledges.
  • Because the publication adheres to the ‘Principal Offence Rule’ for crime classification, the actual count of each crime head may be under-reported.
  • The Principal Offence Rule states that when multiple offences are registered, only the “most heinous crime” carrying the most severe punishment is counted.
  • For example, ‘Murder with Rape’ is treated as ‘Murder,’ undercounting the crime of rape.
  • Vacancies or a lack of police officers at the local level may impede data collection.
  • The data also record the occurrence of registered crime rather than actual crime.

In contrast to NCRB data

  • Following the 2012 Nirbhaya Gangrape case, reported crimes against women in Delhi increased significantly.
  • This is not due to the heinous crimes being trivialised.
  • It could be due to increased awareness of the importance of reporting crimes, both among those affected and the police, rather than an increase in the incidence of crime against women.

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September 2022
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