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I relocated to Bengaluru after my retirement from the Indian Administrative Service in July last year after a lifetime of work in Rajasthan. Bengaluru is a wonderful place to live in: the climate is salubrious throughout the year, family and friends abound in plenty, my grand-daughter aged just about three-and-a-half provides me entertainment and joy too indescribable to define. We have help in the kitchen and the essential perquisites of life have all been arranged and put in place. I am happily engaged in some post-retirement work that keeps me happy, while also ensuring that the grey cells are kept ticking.The people of the city mind their own business and do not ever poke their noses into other people’s lives. There are a large number of yuppies around, young, with id badges slung around their necks, frantically busy during the day, relaxed and having a ball once office hours are over. The pubs and the restaurants are lively and bustling; they stay open all the odd hours of the night and the early morning. I could live with the bad traffic, I thought to myself: it is a small price to pay for the wonderful sense of a cosmopolitan culture buzzing like a wonderful bee hive wherever I look.

Yet, a series of horrendous crimes over the past few months which attracted headlines made me wonder about the seamier underbelly of the city. Young children raped in schools, migrant workers assaulted, religious bigotry demonstrated in churches and mosques, the presence of jihadist links, incidents of moral policing by the lumpen elements. How safe is Bengaluru, I asked myself. When the night turns dark and ominous, or when the watchful eyes of the police are not around, do the vermin come out and assault the helpless and the innocent? For those who are in their beds by 9 pm, like the retired couple that my wife and I are, it is good to know that we can sleep the sweet sleep of babes. But for others, when the joy of a night out is marred by hatred and violence, can we call ourselves civilized?

To know the facts, I had a peek at the National Crime Record Bureau web-site, which maintains impeccable records and statistics of crime in the country. Indeed, state wise and crime wise details are available here. I decided that comparing Bengaluru with the four mighty mega cities may give some indication of how safe we really are here in this city for pensioners. There are innumerable stories hidden in these bald figures, and I leave it to you to interpret the statistics and make sense of them. The first impression that one can elicit from them is not happy at all. These figures are for the year 2013 and, as I said, the only source for them is the website of NCRB which is simply Data for all cities are separately aggregated here and makes for easy comparison.
The statement below is a summary of the relevant facts: We are only looking at crime data for the following crimes; namely murder under 302 IPC, rape under 376 IPC, and dowry deaths under 304 B IPC. Admittedly, they are the most heinous crimes that humankind perpetrates on itself.

Name of city Population (in lakhs) IPC cases registered % of crimes of all cities Murder cases (302 IPC) Rape cases (376 IPC) Dowry deaths (304 B IPC)
Delhi 163.15 72090 13.0 430 1441 125
Kolkotta 141.13 26319 4.7 77 75 15
Mumbai 184.14 34840 6.3 170 391 21
Chennai 86.96 17747 3.2 20 83 12
Bengaluru 84.99 30318 5.5 217 80 52

The first startling fact that stands out is in the matter of the number of IPC cases registered in the urban areas: Delhi stands tall and ashamed with 13% of all the IPC crimes registered in the cities of the country, with Mumbai at second rank (6.3%). But namma Bengaluru’s position with 5.5%, is higher than even Kolkata (4.7%) and Chennai (3.2%). And the number of murders? With 217 murder cases registered in Bengaluru in 2013, our record is higher than the figures of the three metropolitan cities, namely Mumbai, Kolkota and Chennai, and second only to Delhi, the crime capital of the country. The same is true with rape cases: Delhi leads the nation with a horrendous 1441 cases, Mumbai is at 391, but Bengaluru (80) stands about shoulder to shoulder with Chennai (83), leaving even Kolkota behind. And finally in the matter of dowry deaths, we stand condemned, just below Delhi again, with 52 brides having been burnt or bludgeoned or done away with, in some brutal and horrible manner.

There is perhaps a sound argument why figures are higher in Bengaluru; it could be the indication of a higher registration of crimes, unlike other places where such registration is often conservative and discouraged. Keep the numbers low, say the DGPs of some States,: that way, our State will not figure among the worst in the country! And Bengaluru, on the other hand, may be insisting that all crimes be registered accurately so that the actual situation on the ground is reflected. If that is so, then we may be comparing statistics that are not comparable.

Be that as it may, my nights have now turned a little uneasy, and I promise myself to be in bed before 10 pm each night. That may keep me and my wife safe, but what about my daughter and her husband, and the thousands of others like them, who come out in the evenings to enjoy the sights and sounds and tastes of this wonderful city. I am not writing this to be alarmist in anyway, but to generate some concern and positive worry and to hope that the City may discuss these matters in the many civil society groups that thrive here and create a citizens’ movement that will yell and shout at the authorities, and make them do what has to be done. Indeed, when that is accomplished, it will make all of us enjoy the city even better and let us all sleep easy at night. Good night, folks, and sweet dreams.

Post Author: Dr C.K. Mathew, IAS (Retd)