One of the main pillars of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s sushasan or good governance plank is that he ended the Lalu Prasad government’s goonda raj. A comparison of the crime data from various government sources since 2004 shows that cases of murder have indeed fallen significantly in the three terms of Nitish, as have kidnappings for ransom, equated with the RJD reign. However, incidents of attempt to murder have increased exponentially, even as the JD(U)-BJP government has failed to improve Bihar’s police-population ratio, which remains among the worst in the country.
As the poll battle heats up in Bihar, the Opposition is talking of “deteriorating law and order”, even as the JD(U) campaign repeatedly compares Nitish’s 15 years to the 15 years the state was under Lalu and wife Rabri Devi as CM.
The Indian Express compared data for murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, rape, robbery and dacoity for 2004 (last year of the RJD regime), 2009 (a year before Nitish won a second term with a landslide victory on the back of his success in implementing law and order) and 2019. The comparison takes into account crime and policing data available with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), and Bihar Police.
As compared to 2004, annual murder cases were down 21% by 2019 — that is better than the 16% drop in the national average over the same period. However, between 2009 and 2019, murder cases went up by 5% in Bihar.
“While state police are notorious for not registering FIRs, you can’t ignore a dead body,” said an NCRB official, explaining why murders are a good pointer to a state’s law and order.
In contrast, the attempt to murder cases were higher by 148% in 2019 compared to 2004. Even when compared to 2009, there was a 143% rise.
At first glance, kidnapping cases show a surprising increase — as against the general perception — of 214% between 2004 and 2019. However, a closer look shows that a majority of these kidnapping cases last year were of elopement, with families of women and girls opposed to a relationship often known to use this.
The 2019 data, in fact, shows that only 20% of the kidnappings were of a “serious” nature, while 80% concerned women eloping. In fact, there were only 43 clear cases of “kidnapping for ransom” recorded in Bihar last year.
The figures are almost a total reversal compared to 2004 when, under the RJD, 71% of all kidnappings were of a “serious” nature and only 29% concerned abduction of women.
“The reason for the increase in kidnapping cases is both higher registration of crimes and the system of online complaints, which has helped people to file cases of elopement,” ADG Kamal Kishor Singh, who supervises the Bihar Crime Records Bureau, said.
Another senior Bihar Police officer, who has worked under both the RJD and NDA governments, says, “During Lalu Prasad’s term, there used to be hardly any policemen at police stations. The strength at police stations has increased almost four times in the past 15 years.”
Data on police strength from the BPR&D shows that the sanctioned strength of Bihar Police has grown from around 85,000 in 2005 (data for 2004 is not available) to over 1.4 lakh.
However, Bihar continues to have a high number of vacancies. In fact, during Nitish’s term, the vacancies have increased. In 2009, 30% of the posts were unfilled; this stood at 38% in 2019.
Analysis of other data shows that there was a decrease of 47% in rapes and 70% in dacoity between 2004 and 2019. The numbers were already down by 2009, though cases of robbery increased 48% between 2009 and 2019.
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