The biggest deterrent against crime is not just the severity of punishment but the probability of getting caught. Therefore, it is crucial to take steps which increase the chances of the culprits being nabbed.
India has amongst lowest probabilities of getting caught. For two reasons:
- India has one police person for every 1,000 people. Other countries have three police persons per 1,000.
- India's police force (unlike its army) is among the poorest-equipped in the world - with the lowest levels of technology (the lathi or baton and obsolete police rifles are just two examples).
If anyone is actually caught in India, the rate of conviction is negligible. A recent report said that of nearly 600 rape cases reported in Delhi this last year, there was just one conviction.
- A difficult aspect of sexual harassment on the streets and rape is collecting evidence. Other countries have begun to solve this by using new video technologies.
Fundamentally raise the level of deterrent by ensuring a higher probability of getting caught by increasing the size and quality of the police force in three phases : immediate, medium-term and long-term.
- Allocate funds immediately to set up a special police force for crimes against women.
- The government must commit to this and announce it immediately.
- Ensure this special force is trained and has sophisticated weapons and technology to gather evidence.
- If some states object to this measure on the grounds that law and order and the police are a state subject, the Centre should implement this solution in every Union Territory and in states where it is in power. For other states, the government should allow state governments to decide whether to introduce this, but if they are willing, the Centre must provide the funds for a special police force that is trained and focused to handle crimes against women.
Allocate $5 billion (or whatever is deemed necessary) earmarked specifically to:
- Increasing the size of the police force in India from one per 1,000 to three per 1,000.*
- Ensuring the police force is better-trained and has sophisticated weapons and technology that gathers evidence.*
(*Note in areas that are state subjects, the Centre must be prepared to leave the decision to the states but be ready to transfer earmarked funds to states)
- Learn from other countries: the West is now covering almost every square inch of public space with CCTV cameras. This is a huge deterrent as it raises the probability of getting caught and being convicted.
India too should move towards covering all its public spaces with CCTV. This is a highly technical area and should be treated as a special project like the UID and must be designed, installed and operated by our software giants - Infosys, Wipro and TCS, working collectively. We have better know-how in this field than anywhere else in the world - we must use it.
(*Note: "Saturation CCTV" is not just a deterrent against teasing/harassing women, molestation of women and rape; it is also a huge deterrent for terrorists and most other types of crimes. Some people may object to this being an "invasion of privacy". But what greater invasion of privacy can there be than molestation and rape?. ).
- Set up fast-track courts for crimes against women to ensure the conviction rate is high and justice is delivered quickly.
- Sensitize and educate the Indian male - in schools, in government, in the police ... everywhere.