Sunday, December 23, 2012

Law and order: How to go from outrage to action

There is fresh rage on the bad state of law and order in India today. That rage is entirely appropriate.

My father was born in 1926 and experienced British rule. One of the high points of his life was participation in the freedom movement. He used to say to me with great regret that under British rule, the Shiv Sena would have never arisen. What has happened in India is a disgrace.

The interesting and important question is: How can the problems be solved?

Moral outrage does not lend itself to good policy analysis. As with the problem of corruption, the problem of law and order requires sophisticated thinking. Just as the young people who got enamoured by Baba Ramdev and Baba Hazare got nothing done in terms of combating corruption, we should worry about what comes next on law and order. Anger and outrage, coupled with low knowledge of political science and public economics, is a sure path to poor policy analysis. What matters is shifting from anger to analysis to action.

As an example, if laws are modified to prescribe draconian penalties for rape, then rapists are more likely to kill the victim. What is required is better quality implementation of the existing law.

What would it take to make the police and courts work better? The three ingredients that are required are incentives for politicians, resources and feedback loops.

Incentives for politicans

The first issue is incentives for politicians. Politicians will deliver law and order if they think that this is what will get them re-elected. From Indira Gandhi's time onwards, politicians in India have felt that the way to win elections was to focus on welfare programs for the poor. As long as this is the case, the narrative that will dominate the Indian State is that of poverty, inequality, and welfare programs.

Economists distinguish between public goods and private goods. Public goods are defined to be those that are `non-rival' (your consumption of safety does not reduce my consumption of safety) and `non-excludable' (it is impossible to exclude a new born child from the environment of safety). The legitimate purpose of the State is to pursue public goods. All citizens gain from public goods, and all voters should respond to these benefits. The first and most important public good is safety, which requires building the army, the police and the courts.

The Indian State has, instead, gone off on the adventure of building welfare programs: of government giving private goods to marginal voters. The first priority of the Indian State is the themes of poverty, inequality and welfare programs. Politicians need to learn that this hurts. Sheila Dixit should realise that her top priority in Delhi is law and order.

There are undoubtedly problems in the leadership and management structure of the police. I believe that once politicians want law and order, this will drive them to recruit the leadership that is required, and undertake structural reforms, so as to get results. As an example, look at how the politicians broke with PWD and setup NHAI, or setup Delhi Metro. The question that matters is : Do politicians want law and order? From the 1960s onwards, the minds of politicians have been addled by welfare programs.

If Rs.X is spent as a gift on a few marginal voters, it makes a certain difference to winning elections. If that same money is spent on public goods -- e.g. better safety for all -- it should make a bigger difference to winning elections since more voters gain. The question is: Do politicans see this and act in response?

Resources

The second issue is resources. India needs much more staffing in the police and the courts. This includes both technical staff (e.g. constables and judges) and support staff (e.g. clerical staff, operators of computer systems, etc).

Courts and police stations need to be high quality workplaces with air conditioning, computer systems, modern office equipment, canteens, web interfaces to the citizenry, lighting, toilets, and such like.

Policemen need to live in high quality housing. If policemen live in high quality housing and work in high quality offices, they will be more civilised both in terms of the quality of intake and in terms of how their behaviour evolves on the job. This will cost a lot of money. The State in India has very little money. To improve the police and courts will require cutting back on welfare programs.

As Robert Kaplan says, underdevelopment is where the police are more dangerous than the criminals. One element of this is the biases in recruitment. As an example, the police in Bombay tends to be male Maharashtraian and relatively low skill. This needs to evolve into a more sophisticated workforce, with gender, ethnic and religious diversity that reflects the cosmopolitan structure of the populace.

At present, in India, spending on police and courts (which are core public goods) is classified as `non-plan expenditure' and is treated as a bad thing. Spending on private goods like welfare programs is classified as `plan expenditure' and grows lavishly year after year. In the UPA period, plan expenditure has gone up by four times in 10 years. These priorities need to be reversed.

The other critical resource, other than money, is top management time. The simple question that I would ask Sheila Dixit or Manmohan Singh is: What fraction of your time do you devote to public goods? My fear is that the bulk of their time is spent worrying about welfare programs. When the top management is not focused on law and order, safety will degrade.

The lack of safety is a regressive tax: it hits the poor more than the rich. The rich are able to insulate themselves at a lower cost. When a policeman faces me on the street, he immediately speaks to me in a certain way once he sees that I come from the elite. Poor people are mistreated by both criminals and the police. Through this, the number of votes that should be affected by improved law and order is large. The people who care deeply about the poor, and would like to focus the Indian State upon problems of inequality and poverty, should ponder the consequences of what they have wrought.

Feedback loops

In order to think about law and order, we need measurement. I used to think that the murder rate is high quality data. Over recent years, I have come to believe that in many parts of India, not all murder is reported to the police. In this case, we are at ground zero about the state of crime: we know nothing about how much crime is taking place out there.

What you measure is what you can manage. I had recently written a blog post about health, and the same issues apply here. Our first priority should be to setup crime victimisation surveys [link].

The most important outcome that I think matters is a question asked in a household survey of parents: Are you comfortable when your teenage daughter is out alone at 11 PM? That's it. That's the end goal. Civilisation is where parents are comfortable when their teenage daughters are out alone at 11 PM.

Once the CPI is measured, and measured well, RBI can be held accountable for delivering low and stable inflation. In similar fashion, the Bombay police can be held accountable once we get a graph updated every month about the crime rate in Bombay, supplemented by quarterly data from crime victimisation surveys. This would generate feedback loops whereby we can judge whether Sheila Dixit has improved law and order in Delhi on her watch.

When Sheila Dixit gets anxious about the lack of progress on publicly visible statistics about the state of law and order in Delhi, she will have the incentives to recruit high quality leadership for the Delhi police, and to resource them adequately, to get things done.

Why are these good things not getting done?

This is the hardest question. I have three opinions about what has been going wrong.

The first lies in the incentives of politicans. Why do politicians pursue private goods for a few when they can instead spend money on doing public goods that benefit all? Why does democracy not push Indian politicans towards the centre? I think one element of the answer lies in first-past-the-post elections.

Today in India, winning elections does not require pleasing all voters; it only requires a base of 30% of the voters. This gives politicans a greater incentive to dole out goodies for the 30% and not work on public goods that please all voters. This reduces the prioritisation for public goods.

The second issue is that of urban governance. The defining challenge for India today is to make the cities work. But our constitutional structure is confused on the location of cities versus states. The feedback loop from the voters in Bombay do not drive improvements in governance in Bombay.

Delhi is unique in this respect in that it's the first city of India where the basic structure is correct. Sheila Dixit is the Mayor of Delhi. She is held accountable for making voters in Delhi happy. Voters in Delhi bother to vote in the Delhi elections. Hence, I am far more optimistic about the future of Delhi than I am with Bombay.

The third issue lies in the intelligensia. Western NGOs, aid agencies and the World Bank are focused on inequality, poverty and welfare programs. This generates incentives for individuals to focus on inequality, poverty and welfare programs, owing to the funding stream and career paths associated with western NGOs, aid agencies and the World Bank. These large funding sources and career paths have generated a distorted perspective in the Indian intelligensia. We need more minds in India who think in terms of first principles economics and political science, without the distortions that come from the worldview of development economics.

We blame politicians in India for being focused on welfare programs. But to some extent, they are influenced by the intelligensia. It is the job of the intelligensia to hold their feet in the fire, and hold politicians accountable for public goods. The politicians were too happy when, from the 1960s, the intellecturals proposed welfare programs, poverty action, socialism, etc.

Acknowledgments

I am grateful to Pradnya and Nandu Saravade who helped me think about all this.

29 comments:

  1. Hah, but the problem is that we already have a supposedly first-class economist as PM, a first-class economist as finance minister (who was home minister too by the way and couldn't even make sure that basic protective gear could be procured for Mumbai police in the 4 years after a serious terrorist strike exposed miserable shortcomings) and a supposedly first-class finance commission. That is what is so pathetic about the last 8+ years of UPA rule. If they don't think in terms of first principles of economics, who else will? They have been educated in economics, in the best schools (and not in development econ). The PM doesn't even have to think about re-election. That was supposed to be his strong point. So, a lot of your points are mistaken in my view.

    So, can we safely call this the ultimate and complete failure of the PM and the finance commission? Given their education and obvious understanding of issues, aren't they evil and shouldn't they be tried for their crimes of omission?

    How much importance has the finance commission put on 'public goods' vs private goods? I don't know for sure, but I would assume that they haven't ever focused on funds for police and judiciary, have they? I haven't heard much urgency about this in the last 3-4 budgets. I have never heard in a budget, what the target/vision will be towards economic liberalization.

    Lastly, efforts by Anna, Ramdev, etc and the protestors at India Gate are not in vain. They may not be savvy and their solutions might be naive or self-serving. But, they bring issues in the center of the public's consciousness, which is a huge deal given that our culture is all about brushing serious social issues under the carpet. Its a good start. The intelligentsia (and this time it includes you) is also culpable is underestimating their impact and in confusing their illiteracy or unpolished ways with stupidity.

    If there is one thing they have brought out, it is the stupidity and maliciousness of the govt. I used to think Kapil Sibal was smart. I now know better based on his responses on issues. I used to think that Manmohan Singh was the architect of reforms, I now know better. What has shocked me beyond words is the lack of response from all levels of the government. And, when the response has come, it has been in narrow terms of focusing on blaming the opposition. There isn't one person in the govt, except for perhaps Jairam Ramesh who can speak about an issue intelligently. Almost all of the protests could have been nipped in the bud by the PM or a prominent minister addressing the people and articulating what needs to be done on the policy side of things. Its so simple and just commonsense!!

    As Pratap Bhanu Mehta put it, the great achievement of these protests have been to bury the old way of governance. Yes, they don't offer much in terms of proposing what the new forms of governance will look like. I had hoped that at least some politicians and bureaucrats will seize the opportunity and step in, but it seems that Indian society has been atrophied to such an extent, by long decades of poor economic policies, that there are few if any who can step in.

    I'm hopeful of the newer generation, especially since they are exposed to other cultures and know that they do not need to accept crap, but it will take 10-20 years for them to step in.

    Also, I don't think this is just about urban governance. Many problems are far more severe in smaller towns and rural India than in urban India. When we are worrying about female safety in Delhi, we have to start with female foeticide, khap and backward societies in Haryana and UP.

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  2. Lastly, what the economists don't focus as much on, is that capitalism inherently increases inequality (at least in some phases), which tests the social fabric of a country. If a country's social fabric is strong, it can withstand some increase in inequality (especially as capitalism is still the best system overall and everybody benefits eventually), but when it is weak to start with, we are in for some tough times.

    This is going to be the case in India and we are going to have to worry about crimes which are the result of this increased inequality (which is often mislabeled exclusive growth). Its not about inclusive growth with welfare programs but about dealing with the inherent inequality (temporary though it might be) that comes from capitalism.

    This is where China's autocratic policies, during initial development are an interesting contrast. Where policy makers essentially asked some citizens to sod off, when they questioned why growth wasn't touching them yet.

    So, my question to economists is, what should be the expectation in a socially weak country like India, when we move towards capitalism and we encounter increased inequality? What are the implications and possible outcomes?

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  3. And in all comments, nobody blames the voters ..........of Delhi in particular. Why not vote for somebody on a Law & Order issue. Make it an issue, and people will ask for vote on that, and somebody will deliver.

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  4. Right now in India:

    1) There are a lot of people who are hungry, jobless and need education
    2) The instances of rapes, killings are far fewer than deaths in roads accidents

    So if I were to do a cost benefit analysis by putting myself in the shoes of the government and think, I would consider a proper implementation of welfare programmes and my ability to skillfully milk it leveraging media connections at election time as my foremost tactic to stay in power and I believe political parties think the same way. At least the milking bit if not the implementation bit.

    Also, the generality of people today don't vote with so much thought that you seem to be talking about(feedback loops/measurements etc.) and the politicians know that.

    So for the focus to shift from this to Law and Order in metropolitan cities in particular(where such incidents happen more or at least get media attention) and pan-India in general would require overcoming the more broad-based, all-pervasive hunger and unemployment problem. We fix the bigger problem first before moving on to the smaller problem.

    I know women are more victimized than men and I think for that, we need to educate our women and girls on personal safety using those electric stunners and pepper sprays that American women use.

    No matter what we do, we can never stop that stray incident from happening. And when the election day comes people will always vote for the government that appeals to the majority. Hunger, unemployment is more pressing than law and order in our country today.

    About upgrading police offices(ac offices, toilets, computers etc.) so that we have a new breed of policemen who are better than the current breed. The question to ask is: How do we get the medium/high skilled people to join police forces? The profession lacks the fundamentals to attract the skilled in the workforce. There is no pride in it. There are safety concerns. It doesn't earn you more money lawfully(ignoring the under-the-table money). It earns you a mere semblance of respect out of fear but is that something you can consider true respect?

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    1. The way to deal with hunger and employment is not through welfare programs. Welfare programs are supposed to be a safety net, and especially to accommodate people who lose out temporarily due to creative destruction. It is not a solution in of itself. The need for large scale welfare program even now after so many decades of independence is an indication of failed economic policies, which is now well established since 1991's reforms. Ajay refers to it as the failure of traditional development economics, as practice in India, by the JNU/DU types and NGOs, who are great at missing the forest for the trees. Please update yourself to the new reality of the need for economic liberalization and not just more or better social welfare.

      As far as upgrading the police force is concerned, there was a recent article (in ToI I think) which mentioned that we spend abysmally low amounts on police force, compared to similar cities and countries (even the emerging ones). Which is why Ajay has mentioned the need to prioritize funding for police, by labeling it as a public good. It is to be prioritized over social welfare. Issues of political economy notwithstanding.

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    2. 1. Fist thing, I am not for or against welfare. I don't know what gave you that hint. I merely said that if I were to think like the government, I would first ask myself: What affects the majority of the people in our country today and then focus on fixing that. It turns out hunger and unemployment tops that list.

      "Welfare programs are supposed to be a safety net, and especially to accommodate people who lose out temporarily due to creative destruction"

      In our country, people don't lose out temporarily due to creative destruction. They lose out permanently. They cannot keep upgrading their skills to continue to be employed in the economy of today. Only the sufficiently educated can. Probably ones who went to college. So welfare programs are here to stay in the format they are right now and i.e permanent support for poor people who cannot upgrade their skills to stay relevant in today's economic system.

      Coping with this "Creative Destruction" of yours is what is causing most strain and we don't know seem to know how to cope with it.

      Again I know welfare in India has failed. But as a political party, if I were to prioritize my to-do list, I would still put welfare (food, employment) top on list because I know that affects a lot of people (majority) much more than general public safety issues in metros (in particular) and pan-India (in general) and that's what the central government seems to be doing because that's what can get them re-elected. Focus on welfare schemes. Majority of people of our country cannot evaluate the way you can because right now they are either hungry or unemployed or don't know if they would have enough money to eat next month. They can easily be swayed and that's what the government capitalizes on.

      2. On police force upgrading, you may be right that our spending on police force is low. "Ajay has mentioned the need to prioritize funding for police, by labeling it as a public good. It is to be prioritized over social welfare."

      A public good that is called into play only scarcely. When one is being attacked or raped or killed (ask yourself: How many people face that on a daily basis?). Hunger and Unemployment on the other hand are ever-present and ever-threatening for a large number of people (again ask yourself: How many people face that on a daily basis?). So if I were the government, I would still prioritize welfare over police.

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    3. You outlined how the politicians think, which is similar to what Ajay has pointed out in his article. Nobody disagrees with the logic of why politicians have focused on welfare schemes in the past. I am in full agreement there.

      The problem is that after making the argument of why politicians have focused on welfare you assume that their thinking is correct and that welfare by itself will indeed solve the problem of hunger and employment. Because you said:
      "We fix the bigger problem first before moving on to the smaller problem."

      But, that's not the case. Welfare cannot solve these problems. Better economic policies can, as is being understood by even the political class, especially since the reforms of 1991. Many CMs see the benefits of being pro-business like Modi is in Gujarat. Modi has not been selling social welfare like the Congress was trying (like free house program and other nonsense). Welfare is no longer the only argument that can buy votes. That idea is certainly on the decline. This is why I said that you need to update your thinking on what can buy votes.

      The poor are no longer merely content with NREGA or food programs as they realize that does not solve problems, but merely perpetuates dependence on mai-baap sarkar. My arguments are not fancy, as you make them out to be. They are well understood by the uneducated worker as they are pretty obvious economic principles. And, I disagree with your argument about upgrading of skills being possible only for the educated. The majority of the move required is from agricultural to manufacturing and service sector, and at the mass labor level, where education is not necessarily required. You seem to have a problem with creative destruction, similar to what most NGOs do. Whereas I have found the uneducated worker on the ground to be quite realistic and willing to re-skill, as long as the opportunity to do that has been available. The problem has been that closed and oppressive economic policies starve the people from having those opportunities. That is the problem, not creative destruction per se. Creative destruction can't be avoided either. You can either try to deal with it or postpone it by a bit, but it can't be avoided.

      Please don't make comments like "creative destruction like yours". Its not my creative destruction and its not a phenomenon that is optional. Furthermore, India is a young country and will have lots of young workers for the next couple of decades. Young people don't need to be re-skilled.

      Lastly, you can talk about prioritizing welfare over police, but there needs to be some minimum commitment to police, which is not there now.

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    4. Even developed countries have these incidents of gang rape,so reforming the police or upgrading their service conditions is not going to prevent a problem that stems from a myriad socio-economic-psychological causes,each of which needs to be tackled separately and together.

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  5. In some ways, Delhi is worse than Bombay in the structure of governance. Law and order in Bombay is under the purview of the state home minister. In Delhi, it is under the purview of the union home minister, and the unelected Lt Governor of Delhi. Shiela Dixit cannot be incentivised to improve public safety, as she has no direct power to do so (except in indirect ways such as better public transport, better street lights etc.).

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  6. Dear Ajay,
    Great topic. Ultimately, it's culture or philosophy that guide political institutions. The real public good that isn't being valued here is individual rights especially inviolable property rights. If most people believed in these principles, then they would be against the gang warfare and political plundering that is associated with welfare statism. Giving away copies of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged would be a good start in building the philosophical capital required for that. Alas I don't see any country where this trend isn't worsening.

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    1. Only in India do outmoded, discredited idealogies like Ayn Rand's objectivism still curry favor (no pun intended). Alan Greenspan, a famous acolyte of Ayn Rand and her philosophies has gone on record to indicate the flaws with these philosophies. Unfortunately, here, we don't get it yet. Ofcourse, we are on the other end of the development spectrum (from developed countries), so there's still something good one can take from such idealogies.

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  7. As an example, if laws are modified to prescribe draconian penalties for rape, then rapists are more likely to kill the victim.

    I think that if, for example, the death penalty is made mandatory for rapists, we might see a fall in conviction rates (as Judges start applying a higher burden of proof requirement).

    I believe you Academic Gentlemen call this the Law of Unintended Consequences.

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  8. further to my first comment,with due regards to your father's opinion , I think Shiv Sena would have been formed faster & more dangerous if we had British rulers,as British ruled with single agenda of divide & rule, so this point is not valid at all,additionally
    in fact the british rule is what destoyed the laws of this country,the laws that we have today are reflection of the Ruler & ruled mentality, these laws were necessarry because British were in minority rulers, which is not the case anymore.the political class now has far more better representation of Indian society than anytime in history. you are only seeing the middle class point of view which is now politically miniscule.whenever i see comments like this I ask one simple question.
    Imagine a situation where you have no idea where your next meal is coming from but you see Big vehicles going around & people wearing fancy costume in front of your Jhuggi or on road, can you really blame that person for not stealing, in fact I am personally amazed that the crime rate is so low in india considering the difference in classes & I will give credit to the moral fabric of Indians more than anything, in fact today I can trust my watchman earning 500 per month to guard me but the banker to whom I am paying thousands of rupees in not trustable.
    so at the cost of repeating I would say we are looking at class difference the Haves & have nots. this has been going on for thousands of years & will go on for thousands of years becuase perfect society does not exist.

    The best deterrent punishment for Rape in castration but sadly nobody wants to discuss that. it is a proportinate & logical responce to ths crime & should be automatic in case of GANG rape & on case to case basis in 1 to 1 rape.

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    1. Lol, why do we need watchmen? There are many, many societies which don't need watchmen in the first place. :) You can decide for yourself what that means for the moral fabric. And, you are making lots of assumptions here. Do you have stats which show what percentage of watchmen have committed crime vs what percentage of bankers? There are many watchmen who have committed crimes. Furthermore, which segment is likely to commit more serious crimes? And, again, what proof do you have that castration is the best punishment? You are not making much sense here.

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  9. "today I can trust my watchman earning 500 per month to guard me but the banker to whom I am paying thousands of rupees in not trustable" - well said! may be because the watchman did not have the benefit of a five-star education from our management institutes?

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  10. Hmm. Good thought. My observations:

    1. You really think that we can have a top class, well-behaved police, as an island of efficiency, among the pool of inefficient government departments? I feel its not possible to have just one efficient department, unless its out of the govt, like metro. It's either the entire government becomes efficient or all share the inefficiency!

    2. I agree that politicians will prioritize what gets them vote, rightly! So, how do we make them look at 'public goods'? Not by making politicians angels, but by making the public demand 'public goods'. We have to educate the public to vote correctly. Its a long process.

    3. I agree with you entirely on the data-loop. The info revolution and media can help in making a public opinion based in data, which will force the govt to perform better, so that they don't lose votes.

    My two cents.

    Manivannan

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  11. This is a great post! I particularly agree with "The lack of safety is a regressive tax: it hits the poor more than the rich." but don't quite buy into the argument that high quality housing and office = more civilised behaviour. Or at least I need further convincing!

    While good working conditions are imperative for a job done well, I think we need better hiring/firing policies and punitive action In terms of incentives, I think if there is one urgent need to step up the quality of programmes for police officers it should be health programmes and in-service training (considering the officer who died because of the protests in Delhi died of a heart attack.

    In terms of punitive measures, officers are rarely held responsible for oversights. In most cases officers just get "transferred", like in public schools, where poor-performing teachers are never fired.

    Moreover how do we create a task-force sympathetic to rape survivors and women's safety/rights? What incentives can we create for a task force sitting in fancy offices, still holding a bias against women?

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  12. India and Indians have long lived by the policy of 'jugaad' - the ethos that if something can be done without any fuss, at a lower cost, and without any consequences versus the right way, the Jugaad route will be taken. Unfortunately this goes beyond the simple stuff, like making a TV antenna with a Bicycle Rim. This goes far deeper. Our willingness to indulge in petty corruption, small-time under-the-table deals to secure the most basic of necessities, creates the atmosphere where larger crimes can flourish. This is the atmosphere where a man on a higher rung in the social ladder feels secure because he can buy his immunity from prosecution. This is where the simplest of corrupt acts, like buying a Cooking Gas cylinder on the black market begets the propagation of larger crimes.
    The angry people who are demanding things like castration for rapists, killing policemen in what they claim is a peaceful protest, and destroying public property that their taxes paid for are simply following the methodology of jugaad - solutions that seem quick and easy to them.

    It is a supreme irony, that the creative, innovative out-of-the-box thinking that embodies jugaad has now mutated, withered away and churned over so much to become a macabre version of itself, preventing us from seeing the real problems and finding solutions.

    We have trapped ourselves in the box.

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  13. Those people who argue for improving police force via various programs, etc need to realize some of the challenges the police force faces. Don't suggest superficial suggestions. Lay the blame on the right entity - the govt which is responsible for funding and making sure that there is no political interference.

    Please see these for the challenges the police faces (most of it due to govt neglect for the police or under-staffing):
    A Conversation With: Suman Nalwa, head of Delhi Police’s Unit for Women

    Tough conditions but you expect us to fix everything: Delhi cop

    Further, there is a great article from Flavia Agnes, a women rights lawyer on the recent event:
    Rape & death

    Some key points:

    1. “Agar bach jayegi toh zinda laash ho ke jiyegi (If she survives, she will be a living corpse),” said a parliamentarian, eloquently expressing her anger. What is the message being sent out to thousands of rape survivors and their families and friends who have stood by them in their quest for justice, who would be watching the news channels when our women leaders, film personalities and the general public proclaim this? Does such a statement induce future victims to come forward and seek justice or will it drive them further into the shell so that they are not branded as “zinda laash” and cope with their post-rape trauma on their own terms, in private?

    2. The girl is struggling for her life because of the injuries caused by the use of weapons, not just the incident of rape. The brutes who attacked her attempted to murder her and her friend. But in the wake of the premium attached to rape in public discourse, the rest fades into oblivion. The girl lost her intestines due to the gruesome attack on her with iron rods. Even if they had not raped her, these would be equally serious. Would that have induced less public fury because she would not have to survive as a “zinda laash”. Is it the titillating aspect of the crime of rape that induces this public outrage?

    3. Is it possible to examine this issue only within the framework of men versus women or, more particularly, middle-class women versus lower-class men? The girl was not alone, she was travelling with a male companion. He, too, was beaten and thrown out. If he had lost his intestines in the scuffle that followed, what would the public response be? What about the death of a young 19-year-old boy who lost his life while protesting against lewd comments being passed against a girl from his housing society? Ought not that too warrant death penalty? If not, why not?

    4. It is these incidents that make us wonder whether the gangrape in Delhi is meant to be a message to all youngsters not just to not venture out in the dark but to not venture out with male companions. It is the same message that the parents and the community give to their daughters. It is the same message that the moral brigade has been communicating through the raids on young couples in Mumbai under the direction of Maharashtra home minister R.R. Patil, who has now recommended death penalty in rape cases. Perhaps he and most protesters out on the street in India today are unaware that around one-third of all rape cases are filed by parents against boys when their daughter exercises her sexual choice and elopes.

    Fixing a harsher penalty for rape may be needed, but we have to go beyond, to the root of the social issues which lead to the kind of hate that leads to this kind of violence.

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  14. Shiela Dixit is not the mayor, but the Chief Minister, but she has no control over the police. Delhi is the only state in the country where home affairs are not under the state. Delhi has no home minister, the Union Home Ministry controls the police directly.

    She has, as a number of news stories have detailed, been highly critical of Delhi Police's actions in this whole affair.

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  15. So, looking at the news today: rape victim being sent to Singapore for treatment, it looks like we (commenters and author of the post) didn't consider an option that only an Indian politician can come up with. More 'social welfare', of the form of paying for victim treatment, and other losses. Just like when they pay 5 lakhs or whatever pitiable amount for victims of terrorism or a victim of some other sensational case or for treatment costs in this case.

    So, law and order isn't going to improve, but we can see increasing payments to the people to cover for shortcomings of the system, or shortcomings of our society in general. Effective method isn't it? The govt must have thought, this would take the sting out of the protests. Give her VIP treatment. Maybe, a quota for rape victims too, while they are at it.

    And, lets not even get into why the healthcare system of 1.2 billion people does not have the capability or sophistication to treat the patient. Applies for everything, from law and order to health to education, etc. I look forward to the budget allocation for rape treatment costs, in this upcoming budget. Or, maybe, the PM disaster relief fund can be used for this. Appropriately named for our current PM. Lol!

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  16. FPTP system is indeed India's culprit. Pls see pointwise arguments on how we can improve politics by simply switching from FPTP to the proportional respresentation system.

    http://democracy4india.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/proportional-representation-the-answer-to-indias-problems/

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  17. The biggest issue I see is that the Indians rest all their faith, whether be social needs or be it economic needs, in the hands of the Government. The general population including the intellects view the Government as a benevolent benefactor, who is always going to do good and just. The constitution of India, and therefore the civic structure, was written with that view in mind, and therefore vests all the power in the hands of Governmental body. There are no checks and balances. There are no competing autonomous bodies (that are representatives of the general population) to whom the Government and its cabinet members are accountable to. For instance, in the US the Government's (Administration) power is checked by the House of Representatives and the Senate. The power is equally shared between the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, and the Judicial Branch. Each branches operate independently, and provides check and balancing act to the other branches. Then to add to the above complex civic structure, the constitution gives the power to the Citizens who then in turn "lease" it to the Government. That is from where the Government get its power. There is a fundamental understanding within the general population in the US that the Government is NOT to be trusted. And so they (citizens) are wary in transferring their power to the Government, for eg. the gun laws, social welfare services, and so forth. Such structure and such understanding is completely missing within the Indian Civic Framework.

    Even today as this rape incident demonstrates, the Indian people are vouching for more laws. Laws are nothing but written by the same inept government and is fraught with distortions. Writing more laws mean increasing the size and power of the government, with little or no improvement in the security of the people.

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  18. Ajay - the article by you and the comments are well written and capture the real reasons for the dismal law and order situation in India. I would like to add that another reason why crime is increasing is - "Non Implementation of Existing Laws and the weakening of Indian Governance Institutions by the political class".

    Let me give you an example: I lived in Delhi for 10 years from 1992 to 2002. I know live abroad and have been visiting Delhi/ Gurgaon every 1-2 years. This time I visited in November 2012 and took a pre-paid taxi (arranged by Delhi Police) to go home from the airport. As, I was travelling with my wife and toddler, the taxi driver realized that I was in a weak position. He soon began asking me for more money than what I had paid at the pre-paid booth for reasons that did not make much sense. Having lived in Delhi for 10 years, I knew that these things happen often but what struck me this time was the "Brazenness" with which the taxi driver was acting and wanted more money. It made me feel that there was no fear of Law in this country or there was no law altogether. Realizing my weak position in the Taxi, I acquiesced to his demands and we reached home. On reaching home, I refused to pay him more. As expected he abused and created a scene but had to leave when he saw that he did not have many options.

    I have had such experiences in Delhi NCR many times before but this time was different as there was no fear of law in the Taxi Driver. I thought about what caused this and the reason most probably is very simple - when the common man sees a politician or a senior bureaucrat walk free after crimes that are apparent (2G fiasco, Karnataka Mining etc) they feel emboldened to not respect the law. This weak implementation is not because of a dearth of judges or good police facilities but because of weak institutions like CBI that have been hollowed out by government interference.

    As a side note on the recent Delhi Incident with the 23 year old woman, I was thinking a few days back as to how can the political class in India and Delhi come out looking good? The thought came to me that they might prefer to move her abroad so that she breathes her last outside India. The recent turn of events has shown that the political class did not disappoint me.

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    1. I presume that the cab drivers pay elevated license fees that internalize some sort of immunity for fare violations. The cops/bureaucrats and cab drivers are thus contract bound to reasonably help each other out. Similar contract arrangements abound in numerous other situations. Many candidates pay huge sums in bribes to politicians to secure posts with high rent seeking opportunities. Now the officers and the higher-up are contract bound to overlook the bribe seeking behavior. It is a vicious cycle and only a strong top-down leadership can break it.

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  19. While complaining about the low quality of the intelligentsia, you must understand that it is because the intelligentsia is sycophantic to the political class and depends on govt dole for its survival. NGO funding isn't the only funding source. Media, sundry intellectuals, bollywood professionals will whine about events, but won't give up their cozy relations with politicians and the govt. This also applies to businessmen who can criticize a little bit, but have to apologize like Tata did last week, if things go too far.

    Which is why unsavory characters like Kejriwal and Anna Hazare are crucial. They are the only ones calling for a reset in our democracy - in the contract between the government and the people. Both people and politicians need to first understand what their role is in a democracy - that politicians are not kings and people are not passive subjects. This reset is the first step, before worrying about an understanding of first economic principles. This could take 5-10 years years but it will be worth it, and far lesser in cost as compared to what other societies have had to pay to establish a proper democracy.

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  20. I think I could rebut this paragraph by paragraph. though one could use the basic structure of this analysis of thinking though how , what mechanisms of getting some things done, these ideas are scary and half-hearted-reflective. and there is no space in this analysis for why do rapes happen at home, why are women and even little girls unsafe at home in rich houses and poor. what this essay is suggesting will only strengthen a police state. the logic is more police and more army means no sexual violence, as if the police and the army has never raped anyone ever. also, the logic is the richer the people the more the police will act like it should. or police will do what it must if they had nice houses to live in. and there's nothing else for anyone of us to do anything in our own lives.

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