It is time to talk social media FIRs

The brutal rape of a five-year-old girl in Delhi last week sparked a fresh wave of outrage — and this time the police are in the dock for not registering the first information report (FIRs). Local police ducking their responsibility to register cases either under pressure or to avoid pursuing investigations is an old story in India.

Earlier this year, Delhi’s police commissioner talked of a “zero FIRs” under which complaints will be recorded without questioning on the basis of a woman’s complaint. But more significant is that the central government has postponed the implementation of a plan to set up a Crime and Criminal Tracking Network Systems (CCTNS) under which online filing of FIRs would be made possible. This was originally meant to go live by early 2013 but now stands postponed to March 2015.

This is bad enough, and the CCTNS is due to cover only 14,000 police stations.

On Sunday, on a random thought, I tweeted that someone should have a Facebook app (application) that can register FIRs on Facebook that can be automatically tweeted to the Prime Minister of India’s account on Twitter. Imme­diately there were software developers who said they can do it, and one activist from Pune said he would try something like that on his portal.

On its part, the government can learn from the private sector. While official CRM (customer relations management) systems happen to be integrated to company networks, the arrival of social media has resulted in what is called social CRM. Progressive companies now track tweets and their Facebook page walls to aid customers. Delhi Police is now active on Twitter for traffic announcements and also has a Facebook page. Why can’t it go one step further and entertain social FIRs?

Activist groups can help citizens log complaints — and even if they are officially not called  FIRs, they can acquire a public, transparent character that will put pressure on local cops who refuse to do their jobs.


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