New data released by the national crime record bureau (NCRB) shows checking crime against dalits presents itself as one of the biggest challenges facing Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who comes from this disadvantaged category.
As per the NCRB data, 6,721 incidents of crime against persons belonging to the scheduled castes (SCs) were recorded in Bihar during calendar year 2013, the second highest for any Indian state after Uttar Pradesh with 7,078 cases.
As such, Bihar contributed 17.05% of all incidents of crime against SCs, spread across 28 states and seven union territories, which are covered by the NCRB in its new report, released last week.
The report shows the total number of cases in Bihar involving crime against SCs which were up for trial in 2013 (including cases pending from the previous year) stood at 16,515, again, only second behind UP (25,538).
But what was an even more telling figure behind the court trial data, released by the NCRB, was the very low percentage of such cases that were disposed of by courts in Bihar during the year.
Out of 16,515 cases under trial, 67 cases were out compounded or withdrawn. Of the remaining 16,448 cases, just 1,560 cases could be disposed of during calendar year 2013.
This worked out to disposal rate just 9.48% of the cases involving crime against SCs that were under trial in Bihar during the year previous year. Again, the conviction rate in 1,560 concluded cases was just 13.1%.
This figure stood in stark contrast to the overall very high rate of conviction achieved by the state government in recent years. The government had claimed last year it was the highest in the country.
However, PK Thakur, who assumed charge as Bihar's director general of police (DGP) last month, insisted the position pertaining to crime against SCs in Bihar was far less aggravated than the figure of 6,721 suggested.
"What needs to be clarified at the outset is that unlike some other states, the bulk of the cases in Bihar are minor in nature – involving arson or abuses in the name of caste", said Bihar director general of police (DGP) P K Thakur.
Heinous offences against SCs, he said were fewer than most other states. This appeared to be supported by NCRB data which showed 50 cases of murder, 68 cases of rape and nine cases of kidnapping of SCs. The rest were less serious cases.
The DGP said greater awareness among SCs about their rights was also contributing to a larger number of cases being instituted.
"We are trying to empower SC police stations by posting more able officers and providing them more manpower and resources for more effective investigation of cases involving SCs", he explained.
About the slow progress of trials in cases involving SCs, DGP Mishra said a part of the problem was that courts were overburdened with cases.
"We may put forward a request to the government to facilitate – through the high court, more special courts dedicated to the trial of cases involving SCs", the DGP added.
Bihar state human rights commission member Neelmani said the commission has organized six divisional level workshops in Bihar last year to sensitize public servants regarding the violation of human rights of those belonging to the weaker sections.
"We plan to cover the remaining three divisions of Bihar (in all there are nine) later this year", Neelmani added.