After a delay of over a year, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has finally released its annual ‘Crime in India’ report for 2017. Overall, it reports a 3.6% increase in criminal cases during that year. The BJP-ruled state of Uttar Pradesh not only saw the largest number of criminal complaints registered but also witnessed the largest number of crimes against women, with 56,011 cases. The state accounted for 14.5% of all crimes against women in the country. Crimes against children have grown over the years. The number of such crimes registered under the Indian Penal Code and Special and Local Laws rose from 94,172 in 2015 to 106,958 in 2016 and 129,032 in 2017. What is more, the incidence of crime against children shot up from 24 per one lakh children in 2016 to 28.9 in 2017. Among the southern states, Karnataka has not done enough to protect its children. The number of crimes against children went up from 3,961 in 2015 to 4,455 in 2016, and 5,890 crimes in 2017. Bengaluru, which had the largest number of child victims of crime among the southern metros, stood fourth in the country in this regard. In Delhi, FIRs registered for crimes against women fell for the third straight year, from 17,222 in 2015 to 15,310 in 2016 to 13,076 in 2017.
As worrying as the rising numbers in various crimes are the gaps in the report -- the issues on which the Ministry of Home Affairs chose not to provide data. Apparently, the NCRB did collect data on crimes like lynching linked to so-called cow protection, rape during communal conflicts, hate crimes, and attacks on journalists and Right to Information activists. However, this data does not figure in the 2017 report. Can the MHA explain its silence on these crimes? Interestingly, the 2017 NCRB report includes a new section – Crimes Committed by Anti-National Elements. The MHA should clarify what it means by anti-national elements and specify the laws that were violated for a crime to be counted under this category.
The NCRB’s strategic silences on crime data and the inordinate delay in publishing the report lay bare yet again the Narendra Modi government’s determined bid to hide the shoddy and shameful state of affairs in the country. If its fudging of unemployment figures underscored its attempt to hide its economic failures, its selective secrecy over crime figures is aimed at whitewashing the dismal law and order scenario in the country. NCRB data, like economic statistics, provide valuable information that is useful in budget allocation, policymaking and program implementation. Hiding or fudging facts will not make the problem go away.