The national data on crime was released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) on Monday. The crimes rose from 3,793 per million in 2016 to 3,886 per million in 2017. This means, 100 more crimes took place per million people in 2017 compared to the previous year, though crimes such as murders and rapes have come down. The NCRB comes under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and is responsible for collecting and analysing crime data as defined by the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and special and local laws in India.
A few states, in particular, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal showed a decrease in crime rates, but most others continue to see a rise in crimes. Incidents of theft have increased at the fastest rate. In Delhi, the crime rate rose by 8% in a year. This is the fastest rate of growth among all states in India and translates to 11,500 crimes reported per million.
Nearly three million IPC crimes and two million crimes under state laws were recorded in 2017. But even this report says, it is an understatement. “The actual count of each crime per head may be underreported. This is because, among many offences registered in a single FIR, only the most heinous crime (maximum punishment) will be considered as a counting unit,” the report notes.
In a first, crimes pertaining to communal violence were not compiled by the bureau this time. Incidence of rioting reduced from 53 crimes per million people in 2014 to 46 per million people in 2017. Incidence of kidnapping and abduction, on the other hand, rose from 62 per million to 74 per million.
Crime rate under state laws that pertain mostly to prohibition, narcotics, excise, electricity-related ones and gambling rose faster than crimes under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). IPC crime incidence also rose, with crimes such as kidnapping, attempt to murder on the rise, per million population. One group, however, continues to suffer the most—the women. While the incidence of rapes has reduced the overall crime rates against women continues to rise.
This is a disturbing trend and continues from the trend observed in the past. Cases of rapes reduced from 63 per million people in 2016, to 52 per million in 2017, but a total of 3.5 lakh cases of crime against women were registered, these include murder, rape, dowry death, suicide abetment, acid attack, cruelty against women and kidnapping, etc.
Based on the data, the highest number of cases was registered in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populated state (56,011). Maharashtra is a close second with 31,979 cases, followed by 30,992 in West Bengal, 29,778 in Madhya Pradesh, 25,993 in Rajasthan and 23,082 in Assam. In Delhi, according to the NCRB report, 13,076 FIRs were registered in 2017, which is a decrease from 15,310 in 2016 and 17,222 in 2015.
Some positive data comes from the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura where the registered crimes against women are only in three digits. This is not even one per cent of the all India figure. Similar trend can be noticed in the Union Territories—Chandigarh registered 453 cases, followed by 132 in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, 147 in Puducherry, 26 in Daman and Diu, 20 in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and only six in island territory of Lakshadweep.
These figures from the data make one thing clear—that one half of the population continues to suffer disproportionately and faces the majority of the crimes committed. Women of all ages, religion and caste continue to be the victims of sexual violence and heinous offences ranging from rape, kidnapping, dowry-related deaths, physical and sexual assault to harassment at workplaces, abetment of suicide and indecent representation of women in digital and print media.
These crimes act as barriers to their empowerment and establishing equality in terms of gender. This puts a constant constraint on individual and societal development and has heavy economic costs. According to the World Bank report of 2018, violence against women is estimated to cost countries up to 3.7% of their GDP. This amount is more than double of what most governments spend on education.
The government needs to ensure that laws are enforced and perpetrators of physical, mental, or sexual violence do not remain unpunished. We also need more women representatives in the government. The presence of women at all government levels lead to a better representation of their concerns in policymaking; it is also likely to lead to higher economic growth.
The NCRB data is important because it highlights that the safety of women should continue to be an area of concern for the government. Various multipronged strategies—be it anti-discrimination and gender-based violence legislation, gender awareness campaigns, taking the recourse of judiciary, increasing system accountability, social perception, digital consciousness, strict action against child pornography, safe transport, hostels, safe roads and gender sensitization training, counselling, surveillance and increased crime-control policing—may lead to lower crime rates against women in society.
On a positive note, some of the recent legislative, policy and development measures kick off by the current government has statistically improved laws and toughened transparency, and the effects can be seen in the little progress we are seeing in terms of reduction in the rate of crimes against women.