Is govt hiding NCRB report, too?


The failure of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) to publish its annual reports begs many serious questions. The NCRB, which works under the Union home ministry, has been bringing out its annual statements of crime statistics every year since 1954. But the reports for the past two years — 2017 and 2018 — have not been published. Another annual report titled ‘Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India’ (ADSI), which is also published by the NCRB, has not been released for the period 2016-18. The NCRB’s annual crime reports give valuable information about the state of crime in the country. They give a picture of the law and order situation by tracking the levels of various crimes across states and helping in the assessment of criminal investigation and justice delivery systems. ADSI reports have provided useful and essential data on farmer suicides and other untoward incidents.

The reasons given for not publishing these reports are unconvincing. The government has said that the ‘Crime in India’ report for 2017 has not been published because it is not yet finalised it. The NCRB had revised the pro forma for collecting statistics and it is claimed that all states and union territories have not sent the data in the new format. But that cannot explain such a long delay. The NCRB had introduced some new categories of crimes to be classified under separate heads like crimes against media, migrants, etc., and cyber offences against women. It has said that some inconsistencies and errors have to be corrected, too. It is doubtful if these are sufficient grounds for failure to publish reports which are released every year. In the case of ADSI also, the NCRB only says that the data is being finalised.

There is criticism that the reports have been deliberately suppressed, as in the case of the NSSO report on unemployment last year and other inconvenient reports. There have also been charges of manipulation of data in the past. Transparency is an important requirement of democratic governance and it is wrong to withhold and suppress unfavourable data. The crime records data provides key inputs for policymaking and are needed by the police, other departments and by civil society. They are also social documents. Continuing farmer suicides indicate an aggravation of rural distress, and reliable statistics is necessary to counter the problem. Governments should base their policies, decisions and actions on such data. It is vitally important that the data is correct and is not misrepresented, and the people have a right to know them. The government should release the NCRB reports without further delay.

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