Atrocities against SCs and STs in Odisha shows an increasing trend – NCRB report 2021

The state is featured among the top five states having more number of atrocity cases against SCs and STs.

Atrocities against SCs and STs

National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in its annual report Crime in India 2021 captures the trends of crime in our country. The report contains crime against vulnerable sections such as women, children, senior citizens and SC’s and ST’s and others. As it is mandatory with the central government (as per POA Act, 1989) to separately record the crime/atrocities against SCs and STs perpetrated by non-SCs and non-STs for review and monitoring the data of crime against SCs and STs has been reported separately. These atrocities are primarily linked to the caste and ethnic related issues with the victims belonging to the SCs and STs and the perpetrators belonging to non-SCs and STs, i.e., mostly dominant caste and social groups of society.

It is reported that a total of 50,900 cases were registered for committing crime against SCs and 8,802 cases were registered for committing crime against STs in the country. It shows a consistent increase in the crime rate. In comparison to the year 2020, in 2021 the atrocities rate has increased by 6.4% in case of ST’s and by 1.2% in case of SC’s.  The nature of cases reported include rape of women and children, attempt to rape, sexual harassment, acid attack, assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty, stalking, voyeurism, kidnaping and abduction, riots, robbery, arson, criminal intimidation, intentionally insult or intimidate with intent to humiliate, occupy/take possession of lands belonging to SCs and STs, prevent/deny or obstruct usage of public places/passages, force to leave the place of residence or social boycott and practices of untouchability.

The States having maximum number of cases include UP, Rajasthan, MP, Bihar and Odisha and these top five state account for more than 70% of the cases of atrocities against SCs and the top five states having more than 75% of the total atrocities cases against STs includes MP, Rajasthan, Odisha, Maharashtra and Telangana. In atrocity cases against both SCs and STs, the state of Odisha has featured among top five states having more number of cases.

There are a total of 70818 cases of atrocities against SCs and 12159 against STs pending for investigation at the end of the year 2021, and a total of 2,63,512 cases of SCs and 42512 cases of STs placed for trial in the courts. At the end of the year more than 96 percent of the total cases were still pending for trial. Though the charge- sheeting percentage was more than 80% but the conviction rate was below 40%. This shows the status of our criminal justice administration specially access of vulnerable victims to speedy trial and justice.

It has been a matter of deep concern for the state of Odisha that has a sizeable population of SCs and STs. But the rate of crime and atrocities against SCs and STs is no way less than that in the states of UP, Rajasthan and MP.  The report says atrocities against SCs in Odisha shows an increasing trend during last three years – in 2019, number of cases registered was 1886; in 2020, the number increased to 2046, and in 2021 the number of cases further increased to 2327. Same was the case of STs as reported number of cases registered were 576, 624 and 676 for the year 2019, 2020 and 2021 respectively. Till the end of the year 2021, a total 2692 cases of atrocities against SCs and 802 cases of STs  were pending for investigation by competent authority, and 16355 cases of SCs and 5852 cases of STs were pending for trial in different designated special courts of  Odisha.

Why such an increase in the cases of atrocities against the poor and marginalized, mostly the working class people of a backward State such as Odisha? It is also being argued by social activists and researchers working on implementation of POA Act, 1989 that the reported data by the Home Department were the cases registered in different police stations of the State while there were equal number of cases that are underreported due to a number of reasons, as it is not easy to get the cases registered due to non-cooperation by police and many cases are being settled under pressure by influential people of dominant castes and by mostly those belonging to ruling parties. Poverty, illiteracy, landlessness and economic dependency of the marginalized, especially the SCs and STs in Odisha makes them more vulnerable to atrocities. Unfortunately, the institutional mechanism to monitor such cases of crime and atrocities against SCs and STs in the state has been dysfunctional as the state vigilance and monitoring committee under the chairmanship of the chief minister has not been formed and hence no review meetings for a long time, as is the fate of district committees headed by the district collectors.

On the other side, lack of organization at the grassroots as self-defense mechanisms to provide security against the organized atrocities has been largely absent due to lack of proper information about legal mechanisms. The rise in economic distress, landlessness, unemployment and low income along with untouchability practice make their life miserable and defenseless. There are also instances of false cases being registered against the poor and the marginalized SCs and STs to harass them and also to force the victims to withdraw the atrocity cases. The NCRB in its Prison Statistics India 2014 reports that the percentage of SCs, STs, Muslims and Christians inmates is proportionately higher than their national population percentage. It shows the vulnerability of the socially and economically marginalized groups in our continued criminal justice administration and their access to justice. A study on women prisoners by the State Commission for Women, Odisha, revealed that about 63 per cent of women belong to SCs and STs and other backward Communities and a majority of them are economically poor and illiterate. The present scenario of criminal justice administration is extremely discouraging without a timely and fair trial to ensure justice. The provisions of the legal aid and justice delivery system have not served much to the marginalized section of our country, including backward states such as Odisha. Many of the innocent SCs and STs in south western parts are being jailed with accusations of left extremist involvement without a scope of representation to prove their innocence. The legal-aid authority and prisoners welfare fund has failed to cover major prisoners to ensure minimum humanitarian aid to the poor victims. Their sufferings have been manifold with a damaging impact on their family life. The long delayed process of judicial trials for the illiterate poor has been an excruciating experience. While taking forward the agenda of economic growth and social development, the state government must seriously look into the age-old issues of crime against humanity to build a socially inclusive Odia society.

Manas Jena is a social activist

([email protected]).

 

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