The NCRB’s Crime in India report for 2019 threw up some interesting statistics like every year. The overall crime rate in states like Delhi & Kerala was almost 4-5 times or even more than the crime rate in states like UP & Bihar. Does a higher crime rate indicate a higher incidence of crime & vice-versa? What does a higher crime rate in Delhi & Kerala mean? We find out.
In an earlier story, we looked at the numbers pertaining to cognizable and violent crimes registered in 2019 across different states. As observed in that story, mere numbers do not provide a clear picture of the law & order situation in a state. The NCRB report itself clearly states that the numbers will vary with population and so crime rate (measured as crime per lakh population) might be a better indicator to assess the trend. However, the report also states that a lower crime rate need not imply that the police system is more effective or that a higher crime rate means the police system is ineffective since NCRB data is purely based on the cases registered by the police.
That is, only those crimes that come to the notice of the police either suo motu or through public complaints are counted in the report. Crimes which do not come to the notice of the police, meaning crimes which are not reported & registered with the police are not counted in the report resulting in underreporting.
In this story, we look at the incidence of certain violent crimes such as murder which cannot be hidden and may have near 100% reporting and compare it with the crime rate of offences against women such as rape and assault all of which may not be reported to the police. The comparison might help get a better understanding of the variance in crime rates among states and if there is any under-reporting in some states.
Violent crimes such as murder, Dowry Deaths, attempt to murder, rioting, kidnapping are those which involve the use of force to harm or threaten the victim. Such serious crimes also have a greater probability of receiving the attention of the public & media and hence have a greater chance of being registered in police records. As seen in the earlier story, 8.1% of all crimes registered in India are violent crimes. There are 15 different types of crimes as per various sections of the Indian Penal Code that have been classified as violent crimes in the NCRB report.
One in four of the registered violent crime in 2019 is a kidnapping
Around 1.05 lakh cases were booked as kidnapping and abduction in 2019, under IPC sections 363-369 and constitute over a quarter of the violent crimes. Crimes registered as ‘Grievous hurt’ contribute to more than one-fifth (89,115) of the violent crimes recorded in India in 2019. Over 51,254 cases were booked under attempt to commit murder and 46,209 cases registered as rioting. Further, a total of 32,033 cases of rape accounting for nearly 8% of the violent crimes were registered in 2019. Robbery and Murder contributed to about 7% of the violent crimes each.
In the previous story, it was observed that the states of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, and West Bengal were among the top contributors to violent crime in the country. Despite the large number of crimes registered here, the rate of violent crimes per lakh population is low because of their large population.
In more than 94% of the rape cases, the offender was known to the victim
Among the larger states, the number of violent crimes registered per lakh population is 83.4 for Assam, almost 2.7 times the national violent crime rate. A total of 12 States/UTs had a higher violent crime rate than the national rate. Delhi, Odisha, West Bengal, Haryana, Bihar, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Jharkhand which together accounted for close to 56% of the registered violent crimes, were also among the states which recorded a violent crime rate above the national rate. Meanwhile, larger states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan which are among the top ten states by number of violent crimes, and other southern states have reported a violent crime rate less than the national rate. The crime rate was the least in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Gujarat.
Among the violent crimes, murders and dowry deaths are the most probable ones to get reported and hence there could be near 100% reporting of these crimes. Even in the case of kidnapping and abduction, the percentage of crimes being reported must be substantially higher. Such crimes which are difficult to hide may reflect the actual status of violent crimes in the states, unlike the overall violent crime numbers.
On the other hand, the probability of reporting in the case of rape and other crimes against women is comparatively lower because of the social stigma attached to it. Hence, these crimes tend to get under-reported as victims often do not come forward to report it. The NCRB report for 2019 indicates that in case of registered instances of rape, the offender was known to the victim in more than 94% cases meaning that the offender could be a family member, friend or an acquaintance making it more difficult for the victim to report.
Rate of Murder, Dowry deaths & Kidnapping in Kerala is lower than that of UP
The crime rate for murder across states reveals that Jharkhand had the highest murder rate of 4.3 per lakh population in 2019, almost twice the national rate. Assam, which recorded the highest violent crime rate had a murder rate of 3.6. States of Bihar, Delhi, and Madhya Pradesh have also recorded a murder rate above national rate. Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujarat are among the states with low murder rates. Kerala, in spite of having an overall crime rate higher than Uttar Pradesh, has a lower murder compared to Uttar Pradesh. In fact, in the case of dowry deaths, Kerala and Gujarat have reported almost a zero rate while Uttar Pradesh has recorded the highest rate of 2.2, twice the national rate. Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Delhi are among the top ten states in terms of dowry death rate. At the same time, it is seen that in Delhi, Assam, Bihar, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh, the rate of kidnapping is among the highest whereas in Gujarat, and Kerala, it is among the lowest. The national crime rate of Kidnapping in 2019 was 7.9 while Uttar Pradesh reported a rate of 7.3. Such low crime rate in the Kerala in the case of murder, dowry deaths & kidnapping could mean that the higher overall crime rate in Kerala is because of better reporting. And this could be the opposite in the case of states like Bihar & Uttar Pradesh.
UP recorded among the lowest rate of rape cases in 2019
Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have recorded the highest number of rapes in the country and together constitute more than 28% of the rape cases in India in 2019. However, the crime rate of rapes in Uttar Pradesh is exceptionally low, half the national rate. Concomitantly, Kerala and Delhi have recorded crime rates of 11.1 and 13.5 in the case of rape, among the top three states in the country. In Bihar, the number as well as rate are low.
Under cases registered under ‘Assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty’, Delhi and Kerala are among the top five states with high rates of crime under this section whereas Bihar has recorded the least and Uttar Pradesh falls below the national rate. A similar trend is observed in the case of crimes registered under ‘insult to the modesty of women’. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have a crime rate of close to zero under this section.
It has to be noted that the most populous states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Maharashtra have a lower overall crime rate. However, the crime rate in the case of murders, dowry deaths, and kidnappings in Uttar Pradesh is higher. Gujarat and Kerala have lower numbers of such crimes and lower rates. For instance, in the case of dowry deaths, UP reported 300 times more dowry deaths in 2019 compared to Kerala.
What this could mean is that in the case of crimes where there is a probability of under-reporting, crime rates in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are on the lower side compared to the higher rates in states like Delhi & Kerala which are more literate. It also has to be noted that the variance among different types of crimes is lower in Kerala unlike in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Kerala and Delhi may have better reporting & registration of crimes
What is evident is that some states like Kerala and Delhi are doing better than others in reporting and registering crimes, which may be the reason behind the higher overall crime rates. While understanding the NCRB report, it is important to keep in mind that occurrence of crime, reporting, and registering are all different events and one need not necessarily lead to the other.
According to National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), India’s biggest survey of social indicators, conducted in 2015-16, about 5.2% of the 61,906 married women surveyed had experienced sexual violence in the last 12 months. An additional 22.6% had suffered physical violence and 23.7% responded to have experienced both. The spouse was the perpetrator in majority of the cases. The Mint based on the data of NFHS-4 estimated that over 99.1% of the sexual violence cases went unreported. The study also revealed that the reporting rate for states with relatively higher female literacy like Kerala, Delhi, and Assam, was higher.
A study conducted by TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences) and sponsored by Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), an organization under the Ministry of Home, titled ‘A Study on Non-Registration of Crimes: Problems & Solutions’ conducted across six states identified the following to be the reasons behind under-reporting.
- Police are burdened with heavy workload and long working hours which prompted them to avoid more work by registering less cases.
- Behaviour of police towards the complainants, mainly women and marginalized sections of society discouraged people from reporting a crime.
- Budget allocation for the police is low which has resulted in shortage of manpower, infrastructure and transport.
- Management of crime statistics by police functionaries has linkages with performance appraisals of police.
- Classification of cognizable and non-cognizable nature of crimes of which a normal citizen is unaware is exploited by police to twist the complaint
- Police may get loaded with false complaints to investigate.
- Interface of political/NGO/Media and other influential person in the process of registration of crime
All of this indicates that a higher or a lower crime rate is not at all an indicator of the functioning of the police and also does not reflect the status of the law & order in a particular state. Reporting & registration of a crime are essential for an efficient criminal justice system and steps must be taken to ensure these.
Featured Image: NCRB’s Crime in India report