The ghastly Delhi gang rape has shamed the Nation. The Government, as usual, has displayed a half-hearted response. Our country is fortunate that the youngsters have protested. Many believe that rapists should get capital punishment. People have rightly demanded speedy justice.

The Government has suggested severe punishment. The anguish and feeling of insecurity is understandable. How can we prevent such occurences? To do that, we should understand some ground realities.

POLICE-POLITICIAN NEXUS

First, do the people in the neighbourhood help? The victims were lying naked on the street for over two hours in the night. In spite of the male victim waving his hands, none of the twenty cars that passed by stopped to help. People hesitate to help, fearing the corrupt police and procrastinating judges, who keep the case in limbo for decades.

Second, will the police help immediately? In the Delhi rape case, they delayed in rushing the victim to hospital. The police were discussing jurisdiction, which is an age-old British concept.

The geographical jurisdiction of a police station is well understood in villages which are widely spread out. In crowded cities, no one knows area or jurisdiction. The police must do away with jurisdiction at once; they must register the case and help.

Third, why do we see such cases? The primary reason is the police-criminal-politician nexus. Many MPs have been accused of criminal offences. Most politicians are rich, often dangerous businessmen, and dabble in real-estate.

Using the same real-estate and corrupt money, they set up hotels, restaurants, pubs, bars and hospitals. Many crimes are committed in defence of their business interests. They appoint pliable police officers in crucial positions.

Naturally, the police-criminal-politician nexus runs too deep. The police will launch false cases against honest protestors and harass them. Unless the nexus is broken and new political leaders and parties are allowed to thrive, crimes will continue. It is alleged that Delhi has over 16,000 buses with no licence, and many are indirectly owned by cops.

Fourth, what can we learn from developed countries such as Singapore? Indians visiting Singapore or the US follow all the rules scrupulously, whether they are in an immigration queue, driving on highways, or in any public place. They dare not throw any garbage from their car windows, which they are used to doing in India.

They respect a US cop who is usually tall, well-built, wearing well-ironed uniform and loads of weapons and medals. Indian cops do not command respect at all. Their un-ironed khaki uniform does not help. Most drivers are confident of managing them with paltry sums. Many constables with arms training work as household help for senior police officers.

They might be trained in using rifles, but make chapattis at senior officers’ homes. At least 15 per cent of cops are used this way in some States. It is crucial that we hire few policemen but give them adequate compensation, uniform and weapons.

Fifth, why do we see an ineffective IPS? The police service is highly criminalised and politicised. Most government officers are entrusted jobs that enhance their skills with seniority. However, IPS officers get challenging positions just for two years as Assistant Superintendent of Police and then another two years as SP.

In addition, very few become Commissioner of Police at the fag end of their career. If the IPS officer is not friendly with politicians, he will seldom get the prize postings. Honest ones are shunted around and given jobs where they sign a letter a day and head for the golf course by 3 p.m.

It is important that we make use of our bright, young IPS officers by giving them cutting-edge responsibilities. Even if they are transferred, they should be in an equally important position. More cutting-edge positions at the district and divisional levels need to be created and the officers used more for criminal investigations than supervisory roles.

PROPERTY RIGHTS

Finally, does the long-term solution lie in reforming society? Consider the present status of women. Delhi does not respect daughters. Delhi has perhaps the worst sex ratio in the country.

The city has just 866 females per 1,000 males. Millions of girls are not born due to illegal female foeticide. Some minority women are also subject to a lot of harassment due to divorce pronounced by men, without their consent.

While women are not respected, they make many government schemes successful. Most self-help groups financed by the banks and microfinance institutions are run by women. Many State governments now offer inexpensive Janata houses in the name of women. Women take care of the family and encourage children’s education. Men in rural areas make liquor companies rich, and neglect the family.

The States that follow the matriarchal system encourage daughters and do well in terms of literacy. Kerala’s female literacy is 95 per cent, the highest in the country.

Even Mangalore, where the daughter gets to keep the home property and husband moves into the wife’s house, has a high female literacy rate. Meghalaya has a better literacy rate, too; Khasi tribals respect their women.

Hence, the long-term solution lies in empowering women. For instance, India could change personal law for every religion in the country, and mandate that women inherit all the property of family.

Men need to marry and be part of family to get any claim over property. Once women are empowered, men will automatically respect them. Money and control over finances will enhance respect for women. Enough resources will be allocated for the development of women and children. Mother India would be safe.

(The author is a former IAS officer and founder of Brickwork group.)

(This article was published on January 23, 2013)
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