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Why Cybercrime is Beyond the Ken of Police in India

35% of police personnel say it's "natural" for mobs to punish cow smugglers.

In the last five years, cybercrime has increased 457 per cent. Police forces, however, lack personnel trained to handle these crimes; they also lack the necessary infrastructure – a recent report by Lokniti and Common Cause found several police stations lacking in a functional computer or a wireless network.

The ‘Status of policing in India 2019’ report is an attempt to understand the police forces from within. It is the compilation of results of surveys of 12,000 police personnel and 10,000 of their kin across 21 states.

Deep-seated prejudice was found in the uniformed cadre with 35 per cent of those surveyed saying it was “natural” for a mob to punish cow smugglers. Fourteen per cent said Muslims were “naturally” prone to crime.

Policing in India
(Photo: Status of policing in India Report 2019, Lokniti and Common Cause)

There are just over 7% of women personnel in police forces across the country, and many police stations cannot even provide them toilets exclusively for women. Besides, hours of work were long, at 14 per day on average. Many police personnel reported they got no weekly off at all.

Most of those who took the survey had been in service for over 10 years. Few had received in-service training in forensic technology or cybercrime, and for a bulk of the constabulary, the last training they underwent was at the time of joining service. Total training expenditure in 2016-17 was Rs 885 crore, just one per cent of the total police expenditure.

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Policing efficiency is compromised by the large number of vacancies in the forces. A large state like Uttar Pradesh functions with less than half its total sanctioned strength.

U.P., which was often referred to as the largest police force in the world, now does not have as many personnel as Maharashtra, with over 20,25,000 personnel.

The survey found that 240 police stations had no vehicles! So if a crime were reported, police personnel would be expected to use public transport or just run to the scene of crime. In Chhattisgarh, for instance, each police station has jurisdiction over an average 325 sq km; yet 30 per cent of police stations in the state had no vehicles. In U.P., the vehicle deficit is at 57 per cent.

To streamline processes across the country and aid investigation, a network that police stations could use was created in 2009 under the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network Systems (CCTNS). However, data on it may not be helpful to solve cases. The report mentions one case of a missing child in Punjab, who went missing from Hoshiarpur and was found 40 km away in Kapurthala. He was on the verge of being adopted by a family in Spain when the judge overseeing proceedings noticed something amiss. The boy’s photograph was then flashed on TV and his biological parents arrived to take him back, in the nick of time. Local police had no clue of the missing person case filed in another district.

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Even if the CCTNS had been working efficiently, only 68 per cent of civil police had access to a functional computer.

After the Kathua rape case of last year in which a little nomadic girl was raped and killed, the court recorded the complicity of police in subverting the investigation process. About 28 per cent of police personnel surveyed admitted that political pressure was one reason why crimes were not effectively probed. In Himachal Pradesh recently, after policemen imposed a fine on vehicles of local politicians, 10 of them were transferred elsewhere.

The presence of women in the force stands at an abysmal less than eight per cent. Crimes against children and women, under the law, must be investigated by women staff. In the absence of women, investigations are hampered.

Policing in India
(Photo: Status of policing in India Report 2019, Lokniti and Common Cause)

Despite the fact that the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act of 2013 making it necessary for all workplaces to have committees that could probe matters of sexual impropriety at the workplace, three quarters of police personnel surveyed said no such committee existed. Women, by and large, refrain from making complaints. The National Family Health Survey of 2016-17 noted that 99 per cent of sexual harassment cases go unreported.

Four of five personnel surveyed said they saw nothing wrong in beating a criminal to get a confession. Since more than half jail inmates are under-trials, police might actually be beating up accused people to force a confession.

Even those working in the police forces acknowledge that there is need to be cautious in dealing with cops. One in five of those surveyed said they would not want their own daughter approaching a police station alone.

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