Delhi accounts for 25 per cent of the crime — 670,000 plus criminal cases in 2015, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) — reported from the 53 mega cities in India. The city beat its own record of the previous year by three per cent.
The steady climb in crime figures for the city could be because people are reporting more crimes, police stations have become more accessible, and police are indeed registering complaints. That said, Delhi remains an unsafe city. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative’s 2015 Crime Victimisation and Safety Perception report of Delhi and Mumbai households found that in Delhi, only half of crime victims actually went to the police and only half of the reports were registered. So the actual number of crimes could be four times higher than the official figures.
While crimes by ordinary people are underreported, the exceedingly low numbers of registered cases of crimes committed by the police is also cause for serious worry. In 2015, out of 97 deaths in custody across the country, only 33 cases were registered against police personnel. Like in the years before, not a single police officer has been convicted.
This brings into question how Delhi is policed. Most states spend between three to five per cent of their budget on policing, the expenditure is 10 per cent in Delhi. A 2016 parliamentary committee report notes that for the last four years, Delhi’s police budget has been underutilised. So money isn’t a problem. At 384 police personnel per 100,000 of the population, Delhi’s police to population ratio is nearly three times any other city in India. Still the Delhi Police is 5,159 personnel short of the sanctioned strength of 82,242.
If keeping the city safe is the goal, adequately staffed police stations has to be the priority. Only 46 per cent of personnel are deployed in police stations: A major part of the force is used for unnecessary VIP security. Some of the personnel are also put on orderly duty, which makes private servants out of public officials. This practice has persisted despite calls to abolish it by a parliamentary committee. Nor are the police where they should be. For instance, New Delhi district which has less than one per cent of the state’s population and one and a half per cent of all registered crimes has six and a half per cent of the force. In contrast, the Outer district with 14 per cent of Delhi’s registered crime has just 10.8 per cent of the force. In these areas, key posts often lie vacant for years. With Delhi’s particularly nasty record on crimes against women, the police have been making efforts to deploy women officers, who are required by law to register complaints of female victims, in all police stations. But the women component in the force is a meagre seven and a half per cent. A 2014 parliamentary committee report on Delhi Police had recommended that at least 33 per cent of the force needs to be women.
These are the structural reasons why crime in Delhi continues to rise. But there are other issues that have remained unaddressed for too long. For instance, most of the Delhi Police personnel are drawn from neighbouring states. The small town values they bring are often at odds with the mores of the city. There is a strong case for testing their attitudes to women, caste, violence, acceptable public and private behaviour at the time of recruitment and then designing training to reorient them into carrying out duties within the legal framework.
The lack of a common language of values creates a rift between the rank and file and senior officers.
The political executive and the police management need to repair these long-standing frailties. The state chief minister and the lieutenant governor will need to be together if crime has to be kept under check. Delhi had constituted its own State Security Commission on which both the LG and the CM sit. Since its inception in 2011, the commission has met only five times. In 2006, the Supreme Court had required Delhi to set up a full-fledged authority especially to look into complaints against the police. Ten years since, it has morphed into one person in the Public Grievance Commission, where thousands of cases are pending. Clearly, much needs to change.