“With no cash around, even the thieves are going through a dry phase,” a Mumbai police officer joked sitting at his desk inside a quiet police station – a rare sight for the force. The officer was stating the fact and a quick glance at crime statistics suggests the same trend.
For the assistant inspector from Bangur Nagar police station, the daily routine has changed for good as he is not forced to stay back late and investigate a case that came knocking at the door just when his shift was about to end.
Every month, at least 3,000 cases are registered in Mumbai. In November, 2,884 cases were registered. This month, until December 25, 2,699 cases were registered, which is also the first time that the number of criminal cases registered Indian Penal Code sections have dropped to such a low this year.
On November 8, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation and declared Rs1,000 and old Rs 500 notes will cease to be a legal tender. What followed was cash crunch and long queues outside ATM and even as the 50-day deadline is drawing to an end, not much has changed as most ATMs even now have limited cash for the cash-starved city.
Sociologist BV Bhosale said, “About 94 % of the Indian economy is run by the unorganised sector, which is cash-dependent while the remaining 6% is organised. In Mumbai, 64% of economy is dependent on cash.”
HT also analysed the cash-related offences including thefts, robberies and burglaries to study the data collected complied by the Mumbai police.
In October, 628 cases of thefts were reported and it dropped to 437 cases in November. It further plummeted to 333 cases in December, a 47 % decline if compared with October. Similarly, robberies including chain-snatchings came down to 39 cases in December from 97 cases in October and 77 cases in November.
A sub-inspector, requesting anonymity, said, “This December and November, fewer cases of thefts and robberies were reported at the police stations. This trend should continue.”
This month, so far, 118 cases of burglaries were reported as against 200 in November.
While sociologists and criminologists refrained from calling this an immediate effect of demonetisation, many argued that this is merely a one side of coin.
Dr Asha Mukundan, assistant professor of criminology at TISS, said the data needs to be studied as no study of such sort has been made before. “While such a change in criminal pattern is uncommon, the data should be analysed as it is something interesting to look at. If one assumes these cash-related offences have decreased post demonetisition, one has to also look at the number of cybercrimes during the period.”
According to Mumbai police, 38 cases of credit card frauds were reported in October, 22 in November and only 14 till December 18.