The rise in cases of sexual offences involving family members during the Covid lockdown is a cause for concern. For instance, Himachal Pradesh prides itself on being a tourist hub and pitches itself as an investment destination. But the incidents of rape, molestation and kidnapping, especially in the past week, raise doubts about the state’s ability to tackle crime in general and those against women in particular. The state does have dedicated helpline numbers, online complaint portals and community policing schemes to check crime. But it also needs to make sure that these are working and do not get affected by the prolonged lockdown which has seen offices being mostly shut or work being done with only the required staff strength, reducing chances of complaints being registered. Retaining the efficacy of the system will remain a challenge. Also, not all women are familiar or have access to online facilities to make complaints. The lockdown has also meant less mobility, being confined and absence of social connectivity, increasing chances of such crimes.
There have been cases of fake Facebook accounts being made and obscene pictures of girls being uploaded. The police have admitted that the misuse of information technology is the prime reason behind the rise in crimes against women. What exactly is being done to curb cyber crime is what matters. The police earlier said that the surge was also because the courts had enlarged the definition of crime, but that cannot be a reason for precluding vigil on the ground. Adequate number of women police personnel should be deployed to encourage women to come forward and lodge their complaints. The region also has to deal with the menace of drug abuse and the trade in narcotics.
All across the country, the lockdown has seen schools, colleges and coaching institutes being shut, business and industrial establishments getting closed, along with job losses and reduced incomes. Whether the spurt in crime reflects socially deviant behaviour or is indicative of a general trend needs to be determined and checked.
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