Vikash Narain Rai
Former Director, National Police Academy, Hyderabad
Fair enough. If you could not prevent, the next best course was to go for a quick cure. The Karnal police worked out the sensational murder of Rajiv Gupta, the affable MD of the multi-specialty Amritdhara Hospital, within hours and presented both the motive as well as the sequence of the crime to media to reassure the shocked citizens.
One aspect they preferred not to explain was the routine availability of illicit weapons in their jurisdiction. One such weapon was used by the main assailant in committing the crime most foul, which has since been recovered by the police and when matched will be the clinching link evidence in the case. In fact, he was in possession of the illicit pistol for the last one and a half years in the CM’s constituency as he had felt threatened in a land dispute matter. He carried this weapon in addition to another licensed revolver that he possessed since long, indicating his own dubious character on the one hand and his lack of faith in the law and order mechanism on the other. Unfortunately, anyone can commit a murder and that may or may not be preventable in a certain context, but even more unfortunate in the instant case is that anyone obtaining and keeping illicit weapon was certainly preventable.
Drug menace has emerged as the other preventable aspect in this murder. Pawan, the main culprit, a dismissed employee of Amritdhara Hospital, has claimed to be fighting oppressive depression attacks. Under the spell of drugs, he used to hallucinate about killing Dr Rajiv to avenge his dismissal last December.
Amritdhara Hospital is located at the busy ITI junction of Karnal highway bypass, which, not long ago witnessed tense clashes between the police and ITIans over the death of a student while boarding a bus and the resultant enquiry is yet to see a closure. This junction of the city presents a picture of disorganised activities at any time of the day. The roads under perpetual repairs with no security or facilitative markings, inadequate roadside lighting leading to accidents, no earmarked space for the movement of pedestrians and cyclists, roadside haphazard parking of vehicles, buses not stopping at designated stops, traffic violations and encroachments at will, all add to an environment that invites general lawlessness. This would potentially serve as the third preventable catalytic aspect leading to serious crimes like the one under scrutiny.
Even to a casual observer, the law and order scenario in Karnal would appear no different from the rest of the state. It is geared to working out serious cases, bypassing the lesser ones and not counting the preventable at all. The cure and not disease are too much in their focus; the statistics of arrest and recovery occupying the centre stage. Faridabad, the only other designated smart city of the state apart from Karnal, was shaken recently by another high-profile murder: that of Congress spokesperson Vikas Chaudhary, himself a man with a criminal past, in a rival gang-ordered broad-daylight execution.
The known saga of easily circulating illicit weapons enforcing the characteristic ransom threats was too evident to be missed even by the common people. The encroached, hazardous and corrupt organisation of roads, traffic and markets in Faridabad, from the law and order point of view, could be a nightmare for the citizens, encouraging a sense of bravado among routine law breakers and gangsters, alike.
In both these cases, the police took the assistance of the video surveillance cameras placed at the respective crime spots. The cameras did help in investigation, but not in prevention. Still, the ruling politicians, when confronted with the worsening crime situation, not only in Haryana but all over the country, would desperately cling to the argument that the cameras would somehow prevent the crime and keep the fellow citizens safe. It is like advertising the elusive women’s security by opening more women police stations and ostracising in respect of the aspects of sensitisation, so essential for the rest of the police force.
In the absence of full-time criminologists and forensic psychologists at the district and police station levels, the camera inputs are seldom analysed even for predictive policing. The concept of smart city has so far translated into more policemen and not more aware or more assisted policemen.
No surprise that the biggest self-proclaimed proponent of police ‘cure’ in the country has proved to be the biggest failure when it comes to ‘prevention’. Under the guidance of CM Yogi Adityanath, the UP police have undertaken to annihilate violators most aggressively through their ‘Encounter’, ‘Gau Raksha’ and ‘Romeo’ programmes.
So, where have they reached? They have the worst hooch tragedies, worst road accidents, worst rapes and kidnappings, worst vigilante lynching and innumerable police-people clashes in addition to continued mafia domination, at hand. The spread of illicit weapons throughout the state is to be gauged from the unusual public announcement of a district SP inviting jobless youth to enroll as police informers and earn a livelihood by guiding the police to capture such arms. It is well known that UP has traditionally been the biggest manufacturer and supplier of illicit weapons to criminal gangs all over the country. With all its cures, the Yogi police has not smoked out this reputation even one bit. Incidentally, the guns used in both the Karnal and Faridabad cases were procured from UP.
Can one identify the ‘preventable’in the context of crime control? One extended strategy, based on the much-acknowledged 'broken window' doctrine, could be to concentrate on the seamless organisation of roads, traffic and markets and the eradication of petty crimes from public view; which will encourage people to have a stake in the obedience of law, raising a general temper favourable to policing and not being agonistic or indifferent to it. The new recruits to crime, even serious crime, are often nurtured in these nurseries.
Those who scripted the tragic end of Rajiv Gupta in Karnal were not part of any crime syndicate but such novices only. However, the hard fact is that the police either ignore the 'visible crime' in favour of more pressing or elite engagements or patronise them to earn easy money. The talisman to remember is that curing the criminal is a multi-level effort and not a direct police function; but for the prevention of lawlessness, there is no substitute to continuously monitor the under-soil that breeds crime in society.