The news about 12 rapes in Haryana in a span of 28 days has shocked India. But such a catastrophe was waiting to happen given the state's skewed gender ratio and its socio-economic conditions. For years, Haryana has had one of the worst sex ratios among the states. According to the 2011 census, it is 830 girls for 1,000 boys. Thanks to the continuous crisis, boys are not finding girls for marriage and this is creating an environment that is unsafe for women. In fact, two rapes a day have been almost a norm in the state from the start of 2012: between January and August, there have been 455 rapes. The figure could be higher since many cases go unreported.
While the atrocities are appalling, what's more infuriating is the reaction of the politicians and the police. Asked about the rape cases in the state, Ranjiv Singh, Haryana DGP, used statistics to fend off the uncomfortable question. The senior officer said that as compared to 2011, the number of rape cases has gone down by 80. Some consolation this! And state Congress chief Phool Chand Mulana did a Mamata Banerjee by saying that the rapes are a "political conspiracy". The chief minister, Bhupinder Hooda, made customary noises about "setting up a panel" and "strict action" against the culprits. But the state - and the country - could have done with some proactive action, considering his own constituency, Rohtak, ranks fairly high on the list of rape cases. Moreover, the government needs to tone up its basic policing system because in many cases the police don't act in time and pursue the case wholeheartedly. Such delays embolden the culprits.
Last but not the least, the government must deal with the feudal lords of khap panchayats with a strong hand. In a shocking reaction to the recent rape cases, a khap member blamed girls, cinema and TV serials for such incidents. One even gave a bizzare solution and suggested that the marriageable age for girls should be reduced to 16 years "so that they have their husbands for their sexual needs, and they don't need to go elsewhere". If such mindsets prevail, the future of girls in India is indeed grim.