Fellow blogger, Shantanu Bhagwat, has a post Of a dastardly crime, laws and the “system”. This post disturbed me a lot and got me thinking. I still do not know what should be the appropriate response for the outlined incident. This post should make every right thinking person to wake up and put thoughts and what kind of society we are becoming, and what we can do to change things for better. Here is what I wrote as a comment to the post.
Although, the right thing for parent of the girl is to go to police and file complaint, based on my personal experience of the last two years in India, I would not fault them for doing what they are doing.
I had to visit a local SP’s office and local Police station many times in the last two years as my four year old daughter, who was born not in India, requires police certificate to live in the country for more than six months. Leaving aside the stupidity of getting a four year old registered with local police station, experience of visiting a local police station or SP’s office, to put it mildly, is an unpleasant experience. Having spent major part of my life in India, I went with a full expectation that the service was not going to be courteous and I made sure to keep smiling all the time. And, although I tell story of my visits to my friends and have good laugh but seriously public servants in India seem to thrive on lack of knowledge of general public. I was literally asked to produce right from Birth Certificates to my marriage certificate. Asked all kinds of questions (even what my salary was!). I knew very well where this game was going and I played along. After sitting for more than 4 hours twice, the clerk finally gave up and did the paperwork. It took me another three visits to the SP’s office to finally get the certificate (which was valid for only six months!). While sitting at the police station, I saw money being exchanged openly for petty permissions such as playing loudspeakers for Birthday parties.
I shudder to think how these guys would treat me If I ever needed a real service. Coming back to the incident above, following are probably the causes why our society is in such a bad situation:
First, there seem to be no fear, or little fear, among people about the consequences of their actions. There is no fear of law as most people think that they are connected and can get out of any legal trouble. There is no fear of God (or higher being) either. Couple of generation ago people at least used to fear about their wrongdoing and believed that even if they do not have to pay for their wrongdoings immediately, they will have to ultimately pay for it in some other life or form.
Second, process of criminal prosecution in our country is murky. Media, who is supposed to educate people in this regard has has really let us down. Arrest is equated with prosecution and bail is equated with acquittal. There is no talk about real prosecution in the courts, where public prosecutor and police work together to get real conviction.
Third, lack of accountability. Sometime, you wonder who is police accountable to? By their action and behavior they do not seem to be accountable to a local community. Nor they seem to have public interest in their mind. Their actions are not overseen by a committee of elected representatives. They do not report to Mayor either. It seems that they are accountable to a elected person (or few people) sitting in the state capital. Instead of living in localities where most people live, they have special colonies, which goes by police colonies/police lines. Also, who is public prosecutor accountable to? How are they appointed? Who reviews their conviction rates? As a common man, we hear about a crime committed, a person (or few people) arrested, and then the case goes to a black hole, and more often than not, after couple of months (or years), we hear the person got out on bail. And, the case goes on and on and on, and one fine day the person goes free on this or that technicality.
We seem to have myriad of laws in the books but we seem to lack the capacity to interpret and enforce these laws as per societal norms. A graph in the book “The fortune at The Bottom of Pyramid” by C.K. Prahalad appropriately compares various countries on their abilities to have system of law and institution vs capacities to interpret and enforce regulations (page 82). Although, the graph is for market economy, the same can be said for social laws too. Per this graph, India has well developed laws and institutions at par with USA, Japan and Germany. However, at the interpretation and enforcement level it is behind these countries and even behind China and Russia.