Figures don’t make case for drastic action

Frictions between local residents and a small Nigerian community in Goa, which Chief Minister Manohar Parikkar estimated at just over 150, have exploded into an international incident, which could have serious repercussions for the over-1,00,000 Indians who live and work in the oil-rich African country.

The problem rests on the popular perception, fuelled by the media, that foreigners — including Nigerians — have turned Goa into a drugs and crime haven. Government figures, though, don’t bear it out.

1. Are foreigners, Nigerian or otherwise, contributing to a crime wave in Goa?

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) says there were exactly 10 foreign convicts in Goa’s prisons at the end of 2012 (http://ncrb.gov.in/PSI-2012/TABLE-3.17.pdf), of a total of 136 (http://ncrb.gov.in/PSI-2012/TABLE-3.1.pdf). Goa also reported it had 34 foreign under-trial prisoners (http://ncrb.gov.in/PSI-2012/TABLE-3.19.pdf), compared with 336 Indian nationals (http://ncrb.gov.in/PSI-2012/TABLE-3.2.pdf).

There is no disaggregated NCRB data on the nationalities of these prisoners, nor on the foreign population ordinarily resident in Goa. So it is hard if either Nigerians or foreigners generally are overrepresented in the prison population. The important point here, though, is that the numbers don’t seem to justify any drastic action against Nigerians or anyone else.

2. Is there really a crime wave or drug epidemic in Goa?

In spite of the media image of Goa as a crime and drugs haven, the figures suggest otherwise. The NCRB data show cases of crime under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) — of everything from murder and rape to cheating and counterfeiting — rose from 2,341 in 2001 to 3,608 in 2012.

This might seem like a sharp rise, but most States have shown similar trends. Andhra Pradesh, for example, grew from 130,089 cases to 192,522 and Kerala from 103,847 to 158,989. Cases under the IPC nationwide grew from 1,769,308 to 2,387,188. There is often a relationship between the growth of crime and population and wealth; India is no exception, the data show.

Cases under the Narcotics, Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in Goa have risen modestly during the period 2001-2012, from 29 to 55. These account for a tiny fraction of the cases registered nationwide, 24,377 in 2001 and 29,247 in 2012 (Table 2.h, Crime in India, 2012, http://ncrb.gov.in).

Though drug use in Goa, as elsewhere in the country, is probably much higher than the cases registered, the numbers don’t suggest a large-scale crisis.

3. Do foreigners in India indulge in crime on a large scale?

The NCRB says there were 127,789 convicted prisoners in jails at the end of 2012 (http://ncrb.gov.in/PSI-2012/TABLE-3.1.pdf). Just 2,483 of these were foreigners (http://ncrb.gov.in/PSI-2012/TABLE-3.17.pdf). There were also, the NCRB says, 254,857 under-trial prisoners (http://ncrb.gov.in/PSI-2012/TABLE-3.2.pdf).

NCRB figures show that of these, only a tiny percentage — 2,483 convicts, and 3,984 under-trial prisoners — are foreign nationals (http://ncrb.gov.in/PSI-2012/TABLE-3.17.pdf and (http://ncrb.gov.in/PSI-2012/TABLE-3.19.pdf).

The NCRB doesn’t give a breakdown of nationalities, but the largest number of foreign prisoners is in West Bengal, accounting for 1,040. The largest chunk of West Bengal’s foreign prisoners, police sources there say, are Bangladeshi nationals held on a variety of border-transgression charges.

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