Bhubaneswar, Jan. 4: The gruesome murder of two senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders - Kulamani Baral and Divya Singha Baral - of Nrutang village in Cuttack district has shaken the state. The heinous double murders, hitherto unprecedented in coastal Odisha, indicates the bad trend of “political revenge killing” once again raising its ugly face in the state.
With urban elections round the corner and panchayat polls due next year, the political revenge killing trend might turn uglier unless the parties desist from encouraging anti-social elements active in their respective parties.
A deep delve into the poll period behaviour of political parties in Odisha presents a murky picture. According to the statistics of State Crime Record Bureau (SCRB), Odisha has witnessed a rise in political killings in election years. In 2017 when panchayat polls were held, the state witnessed 1,267 murders. Similarly, the year 2018 which was charged with political fervour because of the 2019 general elections and Assembly polls saw 1,378 killings.
The state had recorded 563 murders up to May-end 2019.
On an average, the state has recorded nearly 4 murder crimes every day for a period of the last three years (2018-20). An analysis further showed that the crime rate of murders (murders per lakh State population) in Odisha for the period of 2016-20 had been hovering at around 3. This shows how the murder crime rate in Odisha had almost maintained stagnancy over the years.
As per NCRB reports for the years 2017-2019, Odisha figured in the dubious list of the top -10 states that have registered higher murder crimes in the country.
The number of murders for political reasons in Odisha in 2017, when the rural polls were held, stood at 8. And the state stood second to Jharkhand in the country. During the BJP executive meet in Bhubaneswar in 2017 and also in 2019 elections, PM Narendra Modi had raised the issue of political murders in a big way.
The NCRB data for the years 2018 and 2019 saw zero murders for the cause of political enmity or vendetta in the State. However, the number of murders owing to personal vendetta or enmity, and for gain had posted a sharp rise in the State since 2018.
For instance, A BJP worker Manguli Jena was murdered in Khordha on April 14, 2019, days ahead of poll in Bhubaneswar LS and Khordha Assembly Constituencies. Even, PM Narendra Modi had made the murder a big issue during the polls. He blamed the political violence on BJD. But police record showed that the murder was a result of personal enmity/vendetta, and the assailants were yet to be arrested.
According to legal experts, murder and other crimes in the state are rising fast because of the low conviction rate here. National Crime Records Bureau 2019 reports said the overall conviction rate in Odisha in 2018 stood at 5.7 per cent as against the highest 93.5 per cent of Mizoram. The NCRB data showed that conviction rate slipped to a new low from 9.3 per cent in 2017 when it was second lowest after Bihar.
In 2019, altogether 5,84,467 cases related to the Indian Penal Code were sent to different courts for trial. These included 66,758 cases sent for trial in 2018 and 5.17,709 other backlog cases that were pending trial for the previous years.
Of the 5,58,467 cases, trials were completed in 21,227 cases in 2018 and only 1207 cases ended up in conviction, clocking a 5.7 percent conviction rate.
Experts point out that substandard investigation and poor collection of scientific evidence by police are the main reasons behind cases turning weak in court. Lack of supervision by senior officers like Superintendents of Police, lack of adequate number of government lawyers and shortages of judges are other factors for the poor conviction rate.
Similarly, the police is unable to concentrate on proper investigation because of shortage of staff and extra work burden.
What is the way out?
After assuming charge as the Director General of Police (DGP) on December 9, 2019, Shri Abhay said efforts are being made to improve investigation skills of the police officers through proper training, capacity building programmes and guidance from seniors.
Odisha needs to improve its conviction rate which will send strong warning to perpetrators and they would desist from committing crimes. Or else, the state would see further rise in the number of criminal elements and crimes.