A revert to the mean: On violent crimes and the pandemic

The increase in violent crimes and suicides in 2021 point to the indirect consequences of the pandemic

September 02, 2022 12:10 am | Updated September 03, 2022 01:22 am IST

In a worrying trend, the registration in violent crimes such as rape, kidnapping, atrocities against children, robberies and murders increased in 2021 to levels set before the pandemic, in comparison to the drop in 2020, according to the annual report, “Crime in India” released by the NCRB earlier this week. The drop, in 2020, seemed to, therefore, be an anomaly, either due to lowered registration or a partial decrease in occurrence as there were extensive lockdowns and office shutdowns. While there was an increase in violent crimes in 2021, the overall crime rate (per one lakh people) decreased from 487.8 in 2020 to 445.9 in 2021, largely due to a decrease in cases registered under disobedience to a public servant’s order, relating to the lockdowns. If 2020 was the year when India faced the first COVID-19 wave, 2021 was equally a fraught year because of the effect of the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus; the frequency and intensity of the lockdowns were relatively lower in comparison to 2020. “Cruelty by husband or his relatives” constituted 31.8% of crimes against women, up from 30.2% in 2020 and 30.9% in 2019, indicating that domestic violence continued to be a major issue. While violent crimes increased, the chargesheeting rate fell from 75.8% in 2020 to 72.3% in 2021, as did the conviction rate (57% from 59.2% in 2020). So, law enforcement was less responsive in a year with more violent crimes. Again these trends have to be read State-wise — Assam (76.6 violent crimes per one lakh people), Delhi (57) and West Bengal (48.7) had the highest numbers while Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu registered the lowest numbers.

The report also revealed that the suicide rate in the population in 2021 — 12 per one lakh people was the highest in the last five years. Domestic problems (33.2%) and illnesses (18.6%) were reported as the main reasons, with most victims being daily wage earners (25.6%) and housewives (14.1%), revealing the severity of the pandemic and its indirect consequences on people. With India registering the highest excess deaths during the pandemic, in particular during the Delta wave according to the World Health Organization, these figures are not surprising. The 5.9% jump in cases registered as cyber crimes over 2020, also indicates the increasing use of digital devices and the related challenges. This increase was more so in rural areas as cyber crime in metropolitan cities (with population more than two million people) registered a decline of 8.3% compared to 2020. With more people in rural areas utilising digital devices, including for financial purposes, the increase in cybercrimes should warrant an effort by the Government to educate people about risks in cyber activities and to ensure better law enforcement..

To read this editorial in Tamil, click here.

To read this editorial in Hindi, click here.

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