NCRB Report

'Crimes in India'

By a Correspondent

The National Crime Records Bureau published its 2016 'Crimes in India' report, an entire three years late—and still decided not to put out all the data it had collected. Numbers under certain sub-headings—mob lynching, murder by influential people and killings ordered by Khap Panchayat—were not published.

A little before the incomplete data was published, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had said that 'lynching' are a Western. construct and should not be used to 'defame' India. His statement was widely criticised as trying to cover up crimes against minority community people. Investigating agencies have been accused of going soft on the investigations to ensure that nobody is punished.

Farmer Suicides
Within the NCRB report mentioned above was a section on farmer suicides. Like the rest of the report, this data was three years late—and yet incomplete. For 2016, the NCRB has left out the section on causes of farmer suicides, which could provide important insights into why these suicides continue and what could be done to alleviate farmer distress.

Caste Census
Data from the Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011-collected under the UPA government-has not been released even eight years later. This data is supposed to be used to frame welfare—policies targeting marginalised groups.
In April 2018, Union minister Ramdas Athawale (an NDA ally) had said that the data should be released and he would be taking up the matter with Modi. Former chairman of the National Commission for Backward Classes, Justice Eshwaraiah, too faulted the Centre for sitting on this important do about this rising number.

Consumer Expenditure
The most recent controversy highlighting the Modi government's proclivity to turning a blind eye to uncomfortable numbers is the National Statistical Office's 2017-18 consumer expenditure data. Leaked again to the Business Standard, the data showed that consumer spending fell for the first time in 40 years. The decline was because felling rural demand, the data said.

Instead of coming up with a plan to tackle this, the government rejected the survey's findings due to "data quality issues". According to Mint, after deciding to junk the survey, the Centre made the effort to try and find credible reasons for doing so.

GDP Growth
Another way to deal with numbers you don't like, the Modi government has shown, is to change them altogether. That worth it, the Centre has decided, and the National Population Register (NPR) must be updated next year.

The NPR, and the planned NRC it is linked to, are enormous data- gathering exercises, and will give the government access to personal information about everyone living in this country. This information can then potentially be used as the government (and therefore ruling party) pleases- whether to deny people citizenship, as many are afraid will happen, or to target voters in different areas based on demographic analysis. This, clearly, is the kind of data the Modi govnerment likes.

But there is plenty of data the ruling regime does not like. In 2019, the Centre has time and again been accused of suppressing crucial all-India numbers that could help frame better policies-and give Indians a clearer picture of just how well the economy is (or isn't) doing. When the government doesn't like the data, it decides to simply pretend that those numbers don't exist.

So while Modi and Shah focus on the NPR—data which many---believe can be used for dangerous, majoritarian purposes but—which their ministers claim will mainly be for implementing welfare schemes—here's a look at all the other numbers the government should be paying attention to. Most of this data has been used and analysed by experts, economists and successive governments in the past to put their finger on why the economy looks the way it does.

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Vol. 52, No. 37, Mar 15 - 21, 2020