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Bihar Crime: From myth to reality
Last Updated : 21 Aug 2017 02:16:50 PM IST
Bihar Crime: From myth to reality
Bihar Crime: From myth to reality

It was the month of March in the Y2K (Year 2000) when the then first time Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar paved the way for Rabri Devi to form government after he left the Assembly just before the floor test for confidence motion.

Nitish Kumar took the oath on 3rd March as the Samta Party leader to head a minority government on the expectations that his magic would manage the numbers on the floor of the house which he miserably failed to do so and walked out of the House even before the confidence motion could be moved on. He remained the Chief Minister of the state for merely 8 days and came back to centre politics. The personal charisma and his clean image in politics couldn’t fetch the desired results which Nitish was expecting. He even failed to muster support from anti Laloo groups in order to end the so called “Jungle Raj” and could not leverage his good governance slogan.

An ambitious politician with bureaucratic style of functioning Nitish Kumar though received a big jolt in Bihar; however, he used this defeat as a learning opportunity. He went on for a deep retrospection exercise and the next assembly election in the year 2005 saw him seated on the coveted chair of the Chief Minister which he still is continuing. The lessons learnt from the introspection which Nitish had is not very difficult to understand; ‘In Rome do as the Romans do’ and ‘perception sells better than the performance’.   

What Nitish did was not very different from his predecessor Rabri-Laloo government, rather he chose to follow the same in a different way. The only difference between the friends turned foe turned friends turned foe has been Laloo has an endearment for his sons and extended family members too while Nitish has no such family bondage. While Laloo got her wife Rabri Devi made the Chief Minister of the state and his sons deputy CM and cabinet ministers, Nitish Kumar’s wife a school teacher by profession who never stayed in the CM’s bungalow succumbed to her illness in a government hospital in Patna a few years ago.

When Nitish took the reins of Bihar for the second time in December 2005 the biggest challenge in front of him was to prove that ‘Jungle Raj’ has come to an end and time of good governance has started. The challenge was doubled up for Nitish as many of the MLAs who got elected on his party ticket wore a criminal and tainted background. Out of the 177 MLAs against whom criminal cases were pending 71 belonged to the ruling JD(U)- BJP combine.  So when the law makers themselves had criminal background, it is unfair to expect a decline in the crime graph. However, the number of such tainted leaders was much less than what happened to be in the year 2000. The year which witnessed ‘Bahubalis’ like Surajbhan Singh, Ranjan Tiwary, Munna Sukla and Rama Singh, being brought  from prison van from Beur jail in Patna to the Assembly who took oath as members of the House amidst thumping of desk by NDA members. The four legislators shook hands with pro tem Speaker Bisheshwar Khan after signing the Assembly register. The Speaker informed the House that all the four had come to take oath after getting permission from the court. After oath-taking, the four visited Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in his chamber. Violating court orders, they spent the night in a posh Patna hotel. The next day, they were spotted at a luncheon party thrown by Janata Dal(U) leader Pasupati  Paras, brother of Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan. A police team led by Patna District Magistrate later picked them up from Paras' residence and took them back to jail. It was however, a different matter that merely 8 days later Nitish had also to pack his chief ministerial bag and had to return to Delhi.
The lessons learnt from the past defeat had taught Nitish that in politics though the presence of leaders with criminal background can’t be fully ignored however, their numbers can be reduced significantly. By adopting this formula NItish initially won the confidence of people of the state. He also ensured that bureaucracy and police administration should have minimum interference from the legislature. This worked wonders for Nitish Kumar as a high morale and strong police administration almost vanished local notorious leaders who till now were mushrooming in the name of Laloo Yadav. As the local goons disappeared petty crimes including ransom demand and ‘Hafta wasooli’ also gone and people of the state heaved a sigh of relief.

But all these couldn’t bring down the graph of reported cognizable crime in the state. The next election in the year 2010 saw an 8 per cent increase in the overall number of MLAs with criminal background. Of the total 141 tainted MLAs in the 243 seat Bihar Assembly 116 belonged to the ruling JD(U) – BJP combine. With every passing year, irrespective of which party or combination ruled the state an increase in crime was witnessed. 

In 2014, Bihar reported 1,77,595 cognizable crimes, while the Hindi-belt states of Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Rajasthan recorded 2,72,423 and 2,10,418 such crimes, respectively. But Bihar’s murder rate — or murders per one lac people was higher than either MP, Rajasthan, Gujarat or Kerala. One possible explanation is that Bihar is generally low on crime but, for some reason, is more prone to murder.

The other explanation is that crime in Bihar is under-reported — a process called burking — except for murder, where there is a body that cannot be ignored without some form of due process. Bihar’s murder rate is substantially worse than other larger states and above the national average.

A similar trend is evident with crimes against women. For instance, in 2014, Bihar reported 574 assaults on women “with intent to outrage modesty”, to use legal parlance. MP reported 9,618 such cases while Rajasthan had 6,015. Kerala, with one-third the population of Bihar, and a better place for women, reported 4,412 assaults, about eight times as many.
Bihar also reported substantially fewer rapes than Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan or even Kerala.

Does this mean Bihar is a better place for a woman, despite lower incomes and living standards? Again, the data do not suggest that. Bihar also reports more dowry deaths than Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Kerala and Gujarat combined. This statistic doesn’t appear to indicate social respect for women. One explanation is that women are indeed a target of violence, but crimes against them are not reported. However, as with general murders, a dowry death produces a body, a situation hard to hide.

The chart of crime rate in Bihar is self explanatory. It shows a constant rise in the cognizable crime rate from 2005 till 2014 and the number is still increasing.
When Nitish made Bihar a completely 'dry state' last year banning sale and consumption of all kinds of liquor, he advocated that with this move crime rate in the state will drastically come down but things happened just the opposite. Nitish Kumar’s  passionate pitch for prohibition citing the adverse affects of domestic violence and broken families besides economic and health costs had earned overwhelming support from women for the ruling JD(U) in the 2015 Assembly polls.

According to the NCRB report on crimes against women, in Bihar, there was an increase of more than 21% in rapes and more than 16% in kidnappings in 2013, as compared to 2012. There were 1,128 rapes in 2013 and 927 in 2012. There were 4,419 kidnappings and abductions in 2013, as opposed to 3,789 in 2012.

As far as data on rape cases are concerned, barring some spikes, the state saw a consistent decline in numbers from 2007 to 2012 until the number shot up in 2013, when the JD(U)-BJP alliance was in power. The maximum number of rape cases seen between 1999 to 2013 were in 2000 when 1,570 cases were registered.

The data on abduction and kidnapping, however, is more startling. A comparison of the number of cases registered shows that there has been a consistent increase right from 2003, when the total number of cases reported was 674 as opposed to 4,419 cases reported in 2013.

Soft-spoken, sharp and articulate, Kumar, who speaks in a measured tone, had an answer ready for every question.  When asked about increasing graph of crime in Bihar he passed the buck on to the alliance partner RJD saying he was not comfortable with the latter. It was a clear indication that the big alliance in Bihar was on the verge of collapse and Nitish led JD(U) might go with BJP which eventually happened last month.

But by only changing the attire one cannot claim to have changed the inner character.  Again the new JD(U)-BJP alliance have as many as 22 ministers out of 29 have criminal cases registered against them while in the grand alliance cabinet, 19 of total 28 ministers had cases against them.

More than three-fourth of the ministers in Bihar’s new government have criminal cases against them, higher than what it was in the previous grand alliance cabinet. Out of the 22 ministers who have declared to have criminal cases, nine have declared to have serious criminal cases against themselves. While nine ministers have declared their educational qualification to be between class 8 and 12 pass, 18 are graduates or have higher degrees.

“It’s a known fact that law and order situation has always been weak in Bihar. Neither can we blame jungle raj for the increase in rapes and kidnappings of women nor can we blame Nitish Kumar’s governance for that. No political party will want rapes to increase in any case, irrespective of it being in power. I would say it is the mindset, people’s mentality that needs to be changed. More than blaming the government, it’s the civil administration that needs to be looked into.

Harsh Ranjan
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