Vijay a migrant worker to Lucknow from Sitapur district earns his livelihood by engaging himself into small-scale carpentry work. His small workshop is situated in our surroundings. This vicinity made him well acquainted with our family circle.  Around a month ago he hurriedly rushed to our place to inquire about me, “bhaiya kanha hain ?” On getting a glance of me he jittery approached, his uneasiness was visible. With pale sweated face and trembling voice he gave his Lava keypad phone and asked me to check his inbox. The first message read “Ac XXXXXXXX001253569 Debited by Rs. 25000……….” When I asked whether he did this transaction, he answered no. He then told me that he received a call in the afternoon where the caller claimed that this call is from the bank. And in order to issue a new ATM card, they wanted a few of his old card details. The details were obvious one’s the CVV, OTP,  and Expiry Date. Without any suspicion, Vijay fell into the trap. I was in no capacity to reverse this heartrending situation. Just to show my part of the help I called banks 24*7 from his taped LAVA cellphone, and purposefully talked in English to the customer care executive and asked them to block his ATM card.  For namesake, we also filed an FIR but I was sure, and ironically Vijay was more sure that nothing will transpire. He in a lowering tone said “bhaiya ab kuch bhi nahi ho sakta chaliye yanha se.” In front of me was a man who just lost his 25K hard-earned money to a fraud.

I was of no great help to Vijay but this incident compelled me to ponder on the issue of cybercrime in particular to the state of Uttar Pradesh. The motivation for this deliberation is not to echo more on the nature of the crime or cybercrime at the definitional level but to sense cybercrime according to the institutional report. The data documented by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) will assist us in sensing the degree of persistence of Cyber Crime in India or at State-wise basis. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) is a responsible organization under the Ministry of Home Affairs to document the annual national incidence of crime under several heads. One of the important sections of this annual report reveals the status of Cyber Crime (States/UTs) wise.

Our present era is excellently construed by a Spanish Sociologist Manuel Castells when he pens that we are a “society whose social structure is made up of networks powered by micro-electronics based information and communications technologies” (Castells, 2009) turning both service provider and its consumer into mere nodes of a networked plane. The earlier intimate face to face interaction is fading hastily. Cyberspace with its intangible and anonymous character provides ample opportunity to commit mischief and fraud.

The situation in U.P mounts more detrimental when it contributes to the highest share to all India Cyber Crime cases which counts to 23%, next to U.P lies Karnataka (21.4%) and Maharashtra (12.9%). According to the latest NCRB (2018) report, the total incidence of Cyber Crimes in the state of U.P was 6280. The NCRB data clearly depicts the continuous increment in the number of Cyber Crime cases, in 2017 were 4971 and in 2016 were 2639. Castells assuredly claims that division(s) is a structural feature of the network society. Firstly are those “who are the source of innovation and value to the network society, those who are the source of innovation and value to the network society. And then there are those who merely carry out instructions and those who are irrelevant whether as workers (not enough education, living in marginal areas with inadequate infrastructure for participation in global production) or as consumers (too poor to be part of the global market)” (Castells, 2009) The victims of Cyber Crime majorly hails from the third and last strata of the networked sphere.

The data reveals that netizens of U.P are very prone to the tampering of their computer source, under this same heading U.P counts 192 cases which amount to 75.2% of total cases under Tampering Computer Sources at the national level. The cybercriminals frequently use ransomware as money extracting tool, where they employ malware into its prey’s files. Then they demand a hefty ransom from the victim to restore the access. The state of U.P exceedingly witnesses Ransomware cases where its numbers 1136 cases and at national level cases under this crime head was 1218. It means U.P contributes 93.2% of total ransomware cases nationally. The cases under the crime heading of Forgery (Sec 465, 468 & 471) were 255 cases nationally of which the U.P was the highest contributor with 72 cases.

Months have passed since Vijay was tricked, to date no development in his case. The state agencies hold a huge chunk of pending cases. There are around 3227 cases pending for investigation from the previous year in the state of U.P. The present investigation agencies lacks in capability and infrastructure to debunk the much organized and efficient cybercrime structure. The annual report also documents the Cases that are true but lacks evidence under this heading U.P has 2609 cases which are highest when compared with other states.

The role of courts is also not very satisfying, in the state of U.P there are 3445 cybercrime cases pending for trial from the previous year. This means cases were registered but no legal intervention was initiated. These utterances from the NCRB report visualize the oblivious stance and inefficiency of state agencies in the prompt probe and speedy disposal of cybercrime cases.

With the spawning of the technology-driven ‘virtual world,’ there was certainly an emergence ‘public sphere’ but this sphere inevitably came with latched socio-techno inequalities. The ‘techno-elites’ (borrowing from Castells’s vocabulary) are few who remain well equipped to safeguard their virtual capital, but the majority are those who are in continued susceptibility.

In the post-Corona (expected) world more facilities will be performed on an online platform, thus more populace will be compelled to enter this virtual networked sphere. This drive-in will turn many into vulnerable netizens. The inclusive digital policy is of urgent need, in 2006 the Cyber Appellate Tribunal (CyAT) was established as ‘a specialized forum to redress cyber frauds’ but majorly it remained a defunct structure. New hopes are with recently drafted National Cyber Security Strategy 2020 which visions to create secure cyberspace. In India deficiencies are at an arrangement level, India has poor technological sophistication and lack of cybersecurity-related manpower, this is the prime reason why our policies remained feeble.

References:

Castells, M. (2009). The Rise of the Network Society (2nd ed.). Wiley Blackwell.

Bhawesh Pant is a Research Scholar at Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.


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