by Ardhendu Sarangi*
During my three decades of service in the Government, I have always had an uncomfortable feeling that more crime is perhaps committed within the system than outside it. When Bofors happened,I used to wonder if the value of all the stolen property reported in the several thousand FIRs registered in the thousands of Police Stations from Kashmir to Kanyakumari during that year, when added up, would have come anywhere near the Rs 64 crores reportedly cheated out of our central exchequer by middlemen who were supposed not to exist in the first place. But there were no data to verify these suppositions and I could do little except asking friends and colleagues during gossip sessions if they would hazard a guess. Most of them preferred to maintain a learned silence, while the well-wishing lot would advise me not to be bothered by such trivia.
Today the situation has changed. Data is available and easily accessible. Check up the website of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) at <www.ncrb.nic.in>. According to these data, the country’s citizens, who fell victim to theft, burglary, robbery, dacoity, cheating, criminal breach of trust and other related offences during the three years 2010, 11 and 12 in all lost Rs.33,923 crores worth of property. That is to say, an average annual loss of Rs.11, 308 crores. Not a very large sum for a population of 120 crores; a mere Rs.94 per capita loss per annum or, assuming a five-member average family size, Rs.470 per family.
Let us consider a slightly longer period – 2005 to 2012 – to make a fair comparison. During these eight years, the property lost by Indian citizens due to the horrendous crimes mentioned above was only Rs.49,765 crores. Now compare this figure with the loss suffered by the Union Government during the same period due to two of its resources being given away to companies out to swindle the people of India by the appointed custodians and guardians of those resources in criminal breach of the trust reposed in them. (Remember, criminal breach of trust is one of those horrendous crimes, loss of property resulting from which is reckoned in the NCRB’s statistics). These losses have been estimated by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India as Rs.1,76,000 crores in respect of Telecom Spectrum and Rs.1,86,000 cores for blocks of coal bearing areas; a total property loss of Rs.3,62,000 crores. More than seven times the Rs. 49,765 crores lost by the citizens!
Let us have a look closer home. What story do the numbers for Odisha tell? During the same eight year period from 2005 to 2011, the citizens of Odisha who fell victim to theft, burglary, robbery, dacoity, cheating, criminal breach of trust and other related offences in all lost Rs.803 crores worth of property. During the same period, huge quantities of minerals, primarily iron ore, was looted from Odisha’s reserves by unscrupulous miners, transporters, traders and exporters in full connivance of the authorities who were entrusted with the task of guarding and managing these resources.
The value of the minerals stolen over the eight-year period has been estimated by experts variously between Rs.40, 000 crores to Rs.1, 00,000 crores. Even if we take the lower value of Rs.40, 000 crores, this is 50 times the value of all property lost by citizens due to burglaries/thefts/dacoities/cheating taking place outside. And please note that we are considering the value of the loss arising from only the theft of minerals. There are many other public assets like land, timber, sand etc. which are always being stolen and huge amounts being swindled in criminal breach of trust in awarding contracts, procuring low quality goods from daal to dams to databases. If the value of losses due to all that were reckoned, the figure will be much higher.
Thus the crime within is easily of a much larger dimention than the crime committed outside. Whom is the police policing then? What is it doing driving around in the lanes and streets and highways in speedster cars flashing yellow lights and blowing awe-inspiring horns? Chasing and scaring away whom? Those who are to be rounded up are within, not outside.
Will someone tell them?
* Ardhendu Sarangi is a retired senior civil servant.