[Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on my other blog.]
It’s been over a week since a hapless young medical student was brutally gang-raped and mercilessly beaten to within a micro-inch of her life. In this glorious nation’s capital.. inside a moving private bus with tinted windows that drove past five police checkposts without being stopped for an obvious violation of a law that went into vogue mere months ago. And the Chief Minister appears on a government sympathizer TV channel, sheds crocodile tears at her beloved city being dubbed the ‘rape capital’ yet doesn’t have the humanity to visit the woman battling for her life because she (honorable CM) failed miserably in her job. A job which apparently comes with the unique perk of absorbing all the accolades (however few they might be) and none of the brickbats. A job that apparently does not include law and order. This from a Chief Minister elected to office for the third successive time. And no – I shall not utter some nonsense like “dark side of democracy.”
In the first week, I favorited every tweet that resonated and read every other opinion piece that came through my timeline. (Here’s my curated list.) While my emotional rage quotient ebbed and flowed (but mostly trended down), a nascent desire to act started. Meanwhile on my daily commutes, I wrote (and rewrote) this blog post… in my head of course.
It’s a Funnel, stupid!
Much like the Anna Hazare movement’s Jan Lokpal Bill was touted as a mythical silver bullet to corruption in high (and low) places, a popular solution being brandished (by Bollywood celebrities, media mavens and social media sundry) is capital punishment for convicted rapists. It was by no means the only one silver bullet solution being proposed – a stupendously vacuous suggestion that came up sometime in my Facebook stream was to legalize prostitution – an added nuance being a ‘career option’ for BPL women. I privately wrote back to one of my friends that the solutions to combat rape lie on the entire gamut of a “funnel” – from the mechanics of penalties (be it capital punishment or life imprisonment without parole) to speedy justice (urgent and significant implementation of police and judicial reforms) to society and cultural changes.
Taking things personally
Recently my wife recalled a comment from one of our Bay Area friends (Z) after we had announced our plans to return to India. “I’m just not confident I’ll be able to protect my wife in India,” he had said. She added the following for good measure “I know you normally don’t think about these issues but I really respect what Z said that day.”
This got me thinking.
It’s not like I don’t love my wife. It’s not like I don’t care for her personal safety. It’s not like we have a risky lifestyle that potentially puts her in harm’s way. But.. am I spending time thinking about what is safe for her and our children? And am I doing anything to make her even feel safe? The answers to both are sadly No and No.
Problem. Big problem.
One of Sylvester Stallone’s less popular movies was Demolition Man. Set in a futuristic society where crime rate has come down to zero percent… i.e. until a twentieth-century bad-ass villain gets released on parole from a cryogenic state. The villain wreaks havoc on the futuristic city which is ill-equipped to react to homicidal strategies from a distant era. The city’s (untested) crime fighting department comes up with a desperate remedy – unfreeze Stallone from a similar cryogenic state to help catch the new killer in the city. Stallone was a top-cop from the twentieth-century era who had caught that bad-ass villain in the first place (of course) but himself got into trouble leading to his cryogenic imprisonment.
Crime does not pay. This was the the tragic-comic phrase (with a distinct ad jingle-like effect) that keeps getting played in Demolition Man each time a crime took place. Kinda cheesy in the movie but totally appropriate as a rallying cry to fight crime in India.
Crime does not pay –> Crime SHOULD NOT pay
While the nation’s conscience and the protests in Delhi are (rightly) focused on rape, let’s not forget that India’s track record in battling and convicting murder/assault crimes is as deplorable as that for rape crimes. So let’s make Crime does not pay the rallying cry, shall we?
- I no longer care how filthy our streets are.
- I no longer care how pathetic our pot-holed roads are.
- I no longer care how many new scams are uncovered every month.
- Just like every company that attempts a successful turnaround/reinvention focuses on ONE priority, I believe India’s priority needs to be Law and Order. Time to bring back the “L” in Law and “O” in Order.
- I’ve just HAD it with rapes and gang rapes.
- I’ve just HAD it with police (& society) making rape survivors’ lives miserable and driving them to suicide.
- I’ve just HAD it with an ill-trained, poorly paid, corrupt and disrespected police force.
- No more rapists going scot free.
- No more rape cases dragging on for years.
- No more murder cases dragging on for years.
- Time to OCCUPY the police and judicial system and make Crime does not pay a reality.
- For the next few years, measure and report on law and order metrics at all levels of governance.
- For the next few years, hold EVERY elected politician and bureaucrat accountable to ONE metric – what are YOU (insert <local><state><central> politician) doing to improve the law and order situation?
Yeah. The vast majority of India’s billion plus population can neither afford a Blackwater-style security blanket nor are they entitled to Z-plus level security so we (the citizens) need to make the system work for us.
What precisely do I intend to do as part of my personal manifesto? For starters spend 1-2 hours every week on one of the aspects of this multi-faceted problem. Time to act has begun.
P.S. Already got feedback that this manifesto is high on theory and low on pragmatic todos. Hopefully that’ll change in the coming weeks.