Most people are wondering, and rightly so, how someone like the accused in the latest Uber cab rape case in Delhi could have stayed under the radar despite a criminal record of grave proportions.
This is one aspect of crime which needs to be addressed immediately. In this context, it must be asked what became of the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) project, which was meant to create an integrated database on crimes. It was meant to cover 14,000 police stations across the country and an initial outlay of Rs 2,000 crore was approved in 2009. It was meant to have been operational starting from 2013.
Had it been up and running, the accused’s record would have shown had the cab company sought to verify him through the appropriate channels. Such a database would be useful in combating crimes of all types, including terror. The home ministry needs to answer as to why it is dragging its feet on this when it could literally mean the difference between life and death for many people.
We keep talking about changing societal mindsets and about the laxity of the law. But rarely do we focus on prevention. The database could help companies or individuals to verify the credentials of those whom they seek to employ. However, care must be taken to ensure that information on an individual’s record cannot be accessed unless the seeker can provide bonafide reasons on why it should be given.
While political parties are busy trying to apportion blame, no one seems to be talking about how to put in place systems that could minimise the possibility of such crimes.
Then, there are the recommendations made by the Justice Usha Mehra committee on steps to be taken in policing and transport bodies, which include emergency buttons in all public transport vehicles and proper driver verification. However, despite the horrific Delhi gang rape, which took place this month two years ago, buses plying without lights and picking passengers in undesignated places is par for the course.
In the Uber case, it would seem that the company, which observes stringent laws in its home country, the US, cut corners in its operations elsewhere including in India. When it comes to public safety, the authorities have to be ever vigilant. A good start would be to get this database going. Today, there are several technologies available when it comes to safety and security systems. We should not stint on getting whatever is necessary to keep the public safe.