Sunday, June 24, 2012

Making Crimes’ Own Country out of God’s Own Country!

National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) maintains the statistics relating to the reported crimes across the country. It gives the State wise and City wise breakup of the reported crimes for each year.  These statistics help in comparing the trends and understanding the landscape of crimes for planning effective measures to counter them.

However, Statistics has one inherent problem. It can be misused as much as it can be used. Times of India in its report, dated 24th June 2012, based on the NCRB report for year 2010, has chosen to misuse the statistics to present a grim view of the State of Kerala and its crime levels.

‘Paradise lost’, ‘Kochi Most Dangerous City’, “Even women are not very safe in the coconut country’, are some of the phrases used in the report to paint an alarmist picture of Kerala while comparing it with the ‘badlands of North India’ and ‘Delhi which is often called the most unsafe place for females’.  I do not know if it is mere spicing up of a report for sensationalism or any particular agenda and would have ignored this report, but for the reactions that I see in my Twitter timeline.  The reactions are either gleeful on seeing one’s neighbour’s bad luck or concerned about the safety of living in such a dangerous place.  So, I am writing this to put some aspects of this report in perspective.

Crimes vs Reported Crimes

First of all, what is being collated and reported by NCRB are not crimes but complaints received under Indian Penal Code and other Special & Local Laws, including those initiated suo moto by the Police authorities. In other words, the NCRB numbers will go up when people are more aware of their rights and are willing to report any crimes against them to Police.  It would also go up when the Police is people friendly and trustworthy.  So, if the crime incidences are equal in two places under comparison, the higher reporting of crimes in one place is a positive for that place and its law enforcing authorities.

In other words, all other things being equal, the higher per capita number of crimes reported may not be as negative as ToI is seeking to project, for ‘a State that reaps praise for scoring high on literacy and health indicators’.  Everyone knows crimes have no correlation with ‘literacy and health indicators’. If at all, literacy and health indicators will only have a correlation with prompt reporting of crimes, which seems to be the case in Kerala.   But ToI reporter had to mention this ‘ State that reaps praise for scoring high on literacy and health indicators’ to display his real intention of running down the State’s image! 

Apple to Apple

Now let us consider the duplicity in ToI reporting.  It uses crime rate – number of offences committed per lakh population- to show that Kerala is the capital of crimes, because there are other States with much higher number of reported crimes. Whereas , when it comes to reporting what is termed as ‘violent crimes’, it chose to merely report the numbers as Kerala has a higher number of such crimes reported and it suits the purpose to compare the numbers than per population rates!

Let us look at the type of crimes that are included in the category of ‘violent crimes’ and their reported numbers in Kerala for the year 2010:

Reported in Kerala
Highest reported number
Reported in
Attempt to murder
Culpable Homicide
(For Delhi it was 507)

Kidnapping & Abduction
(For Delhi it was 3208)
Prep & Assembly for Dacoity
Dowry Death
Total Violent Crimes
% share to All India Crimes
% to Total Congnizable Crimes

I request readers to use the comprehensive Table published by NCRB to get an overall picture on the above crimes.  I have quoted only the above numbers to put things in perspective.  Out of the 11,756 Violent Crimes reported in Kerala, 8,724 are in the category of riots... Kerala and riots? ... Does that say something to you?

Also look at the comparisons of percentage share to All India Crimes in the same category... It is a mere 4.9% (including the 8724 cases of riots).  Similarly as a percentage to total reported cognizable crimes, violent crimes (including the 8724 cases of riots) amounts to only 7.9% within the State.  Compare this with 34.4% in Manipur.  These percentages for most other larger states are also almost double to that of Kerala.  It shows the total number of cases being reported in Kerala is relatively minor in nature.

Ground Reality

As a person who lived in various parts of India for last 27 years, out of a total 45 years, with frequent visits back home in Kerala, I can assure you that the life in Kerala is comparable and relatively better than most places in India.  Yes, Kerala has its share of negatives. But, higher rate crimes are not one of them.  I would any day prefer to live in Kerala if my career objectives permitted it.

If you are genuinely concerned about the situation in Kerala, you can take some relief from the fact that, till today, I have left my family consisting of aged parents, working wife and two small children back in Kerala and that is also because of my confidence in the law and order situation there.  I genuinely feel Kerala remains the best place for a child to grow up among all the places that I lived in the past that includes Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chandigarh among others.

Kerala neither belongs to God nor Criminals!

It is not my intention to say that Kerala is literally God’s Own Country as projected by the Tourism department in their brochures.  I would like to remind that the tagline ‘God’s Own Country’ has to do more with the scenic beauty of Kerala than the living standards or crimes rates of the State. 

I would like to see hundreds of things changed in Kerala for the better. For example, I would love to see complete eradication of frequent Bandhs/ Hartals that would probably account for over 90% of the riots reported in the State. Anyone who had witnessed/followed a true riot and then a Hartal in Kerala will know the difference of the two, though NCRB statistics or ToI reporter will not understand the same!

Anecdotes on Statistics

Let me just paraphrase two incidences that I have read about misuse of Statistics in interpretation of facts. 

First report appeared when graduation studies were introduced for girls, for the first time in USA.  After the first course was completed some paper like Times of India reported that it is not prudent to continue admitting girls for such higher studies as 1/3rd of the girl students got married to the faculty and 1/3rd fell in love with fellow students. What they conveniently forgot to add in the report was the total intake of girl students was only 3 in that first course!

Second incidence is about a study which reported that it is safest for pedestrians to walk in the middle of a road.  This finding was based on statistics that recorded the number of accidents on either sides of the road and middle of the road.  It was found that maximum number of accidents involving pedestrians occurred while they were walking on either side of the road and minimum when they were walking in the middle of the road....  If you want to follow this finding, well you might get added to the NCRB’s statistics on reported crimes!


People and Police of Kerala, don’t bother about these statistics... please carry on with prompt reporting of cases and follow up on them as mandated by rule of law. Also, continue with the efforts to improve Kerala as a better place for its inhabitants to live. Meanwhile let newspapers sensationalise our minor shortcomings and denigrate our greater achievements, for whatever objectives!


  1. Excellent reply. Even I don't think that Kerala is the most safest place but while comparing with other states, ours is safer. I would like to say that we have the most efficient police force than any other state. Its always the media who creates these false news and confuse the poor people.

  2. TOI is the newspaper which takes out the "Top News" column if there is no rape reported in the country...

  3. Thts more like it.. Putting things in perspective...

    I too have travelled and lived in many places all over India.. And I can vouch tht kerala is the safest and cleanest place out there (excluding the north-east)
    For eg: Just show me a rifle or a gun in kerala.. u will be hard pressed to see it even in front of the secretariat... But in Up, Bihar.. u just have to walk on the street for 15 minutes before u spot one..!!

    But yes, Kerala does hv its -ves.. no ones denying tht... Alcoholism, Political violence, those horrendous bandhs and hartals, And yes.. that absolutely reprehensible parochial mentality which allows no women to walk alone after sunset....