September 26, 2020

Cops deny prohibition zeal is a hurdle in crime fight

Patna: Police have arrested over 1.29 lakh persons for violating the dry law since April 5, 2016, when chief minister Nitish Kumar clamped total prohibition on Bihar. A total of 90,803 cases have been registered and over 14 lakh litres of Indian-made foreign liquor seized. The police raided 3.87 lakh locations and recovered 7.48 lakh litres of country liquor till March 31, 2018.

Doubts, however, are still rife over action against the well-entrenched liquor mafia operating in alleged connivance with the police and the politicians. “It is just the tip of the iceberg. That so much liquor is seized speaks volumes that liquor is available in Bihar,” conceded a senior police official.

Asked whether prohibition has become the sole focus of the cops, a former director-general of police pointed to the recovery of huge sums of money from the lockers of an Indian Police Service officer’s relatives. “Previously (before prohibition), there was no money for the police,” the former top cop said under cover of anonymity. “It was the job of the excise department to check illegal smuggling; the police’s role was limited. After prohibition, the cops are more interested in action against bootleggers than offenders of other crimes. The result is obvious.”

According to official data on dry law-related disciplinary action, 32 personnel have been dismissed from service and for 10 years, 33 officials cannot be posted as station house officers. Besides, 170 cops have been suspended and 133 others are facing department proceedings for either being lax in implementing the prohibition law or being hand in glove with bootleggers.

“Bootlegging is flourishing in Bihar with the help of police,” alleged an RJD leader.

Even ruling alliance leaders agree, even if not on record. “There is a growing perception among the people that the police are going slow in tackling other (non-prohibition-related) crimes,” remarked a BJP leader.

Senior BJP leader and former Union minister C.P. Thakur has even led a delegation of businessmen to the Patna district magistrate to complain about escalating crime against traders in the city.

The Nitish government is trying hard to fight the perception that the police have been “too active” in enforcing prohibition. Top officers at the police headquarters claimed that crime has fallen by 18.5 per cent since prohibition was enforced, accidents have dropped by over 30 per cent, dacoity by 24 per cent and kidnapping-for-ransom by 28 per cent.

“As per the national crime records bureau (NCRB), Bihar has one of the lowest crime rates in the country and there has been no deterioration in the law and order situation post-prohibition,” said Sanjeev Kumar Singhal, additional director-general of police (headquarters).

Singhal, who is also the official spokesperson of the Bihar police, further claimed that as per the NCRB data (2016), the average national rate of cognisable crime is 233.6 per cent per lakh population while the rate of crime per lakh population in Bihar stood at 157.4 per cent. Bihar is ranked 22nd in terms of number of crimes per lakh population compared to other states and Union territories (as per crime rate).

To buttress his claim, Singhal said that average national rate of cognisable crime in 2015 was 234.2 per cent, which reduced to 233.6 per cent in 2016. In Bihar, the rate of crime in 2015 was recorded at 171.6 per cent, which reclined to 157.4 per cent in 2016, a fall of 8.27 percentage points.

According to the NCRB data (2016), Bihar ranked 17th in murder, 15th in dacoity, 13th in kidnapping for ransom, 18th in loot, 29th in atrocities on women, 34th in rape, third in riots, eighth in communal riots, fourth in atrocities on Dalits.

“Nobody can claim to completely eradicate the crime, but we have reined it in to a great extent,” the ADG (headquarters) added.

He, however, admitted that the number of cognisable offences in the state has gone up.

A comparative study of the crime figures compiled by the state crime records bureau, however, showed an increase in crime in 2017 compared to 2016. Bihar witnessed more than 24 per cent rise in cognisable offences in 2017 compared to 2016 (See chart). There has been an increase of about 20 per cent in crimes against women, and 22 per cent in cases of kidnapping in 2017 when compared to 2016. Last year, the state also witnessed an increase of 21.5 per cent in theft cases.

The top police officers, however, maintained that the numbers didn’t present the whole truth.

Courtesy: The Telegraph

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