Hamara Hyderabad: Is crime spiralling out of control?

Hyderabad: The summer of 2022 has been tough for both Hyderabad and the citizens of this erstwhile ‘city of Nawabs’. The summer heat apart, the series of ghastly incidents of rape, brawls in pubs and honour killings threaten to dent its image as a safe city.

The brutality of the honour killings and the nature of rapes-involving children of public representatives and influential families and victims being mostly minor girls has caused concern and raised serious safety issues.

In just over a month during May-June, Hyderabad and its outskirts reported at least half a dozen instances of rape and two murders in public space on the pretext of honour killings. By any stretch of the imagination, it’s worrisome. More so, if this happens in a city, reputed to be among the most intensely covered under security surveillance through CCTV network.

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The most disturbing and high-profile incident involved the children of a political party MLA and kin of a government official. The crime came to light after 3 days and the initial lackadaisical attitude of the city police towards the complainant is a greater cause of worry indeed. As per the reports, the girl and the assailants met at a city pub, went to a bakery and after that drove to a secluded spot where the crime was committed.

Post a hue and cry on social media, the city police swung into action and apprehended all the six accused, some of them being minors. The Police too have insisted that they be tried under regular crime acts and not juvenile laws. After the ‘Nirbhaya case’, the rape accused, even if minor, need not be tried under the Juvenile laws.

High surveillance and high-ranking Hyderabad

According to a recent study “The top surveillance cities worldwide,” Hyderabad has 480 CCTVs per sq km and 30 for every 1000 population. It’s the second most surveillance city in the world after Chennai and beating London, New York, Beijing and others.

The Telangana State Government is also building an ultra-modern ‘Command and Control Centre’ that will centralise and codify the city’s facial recognition system on a real-time basis. Situated in the heart of the city, the facilities are near completion. Amnesty International in its November 2021 report said the Centre will be capable of monitoring data and imagery from 6 lakh cameras in the city. This raises issues of data privacy too, it warned.

Incidentally, on the eve of the Telangana Chief Minister, K Chandrasekhar Rao’s visit to the near-completed and imposing Centre, one of the contractors filed a complaint with the Banjara Hills police station that equipment worth Rs 40 lakh was robbed from the towers. What irony?

The Telangana Police have been arguing that the expanding surveillance has been yielding results in the form of declining crimes, traffic violations, and better policing over the years. However, some experts feel, that surveillance works more as post-crime management than prevention. Though, the State government has the distinction of recruiting the most number of police personnel in the last 8 years (recently, it again advertised for a few thousand posts).

As per the latest estimates, there are around 3.5–3.75 lakh surveillance cameras in the city. To monitor them 24/7, the police will require about 20,000 personnel. Therefore, it is possible to identify 75-100 locations of high probability crime spots and monitor them round the clock.

The bigger question is also the efficiency and continuous operation of these cameras. Unless the maintenance agreements are operational and the agencies active, shortcomings can happen. In a few instances, citizens who complained about cases were told that there was no footage available as the cameras were not functioning during the time. The other allegation is that the footage can be selectively used. Several people spoke to cite the example of intense traffic violation drives and issuing challans as the biggest application of the CCTVs and camera-holding traffic policemen moving around.

Growing metropolis & rise in crime

Despite the technological capabilities being built to improve surveillance, the rapidly growing metropolis of Hyderabad, its neo-rich and their lifestyles, pub culture, drugs, big cars and a big jump in population density, the existing police force is woefully inadequate in manpower and capabilities to deal with the range of crimes from traffic violations to crimes of passion.

On the sociological front, the heady mix of political clout, corruption, rise in unemployment and sometimes police becoming a law unto themselves is a difficult mix to handle. The influx of lakhs of youngsters from different states into the IT, hospitality and hospital industries and the labour force into the growing realty sector have posed their own challenges to the administration and police.

In Cyberabad, now the centre of huge growth in industry, infra and population all the above challenges are manifested in ample measure. Is total surveillance the recipe? Is the beefing up and training of police the answer? Should there be more awareness and social responsibility among the public?

The right recipe has to be worked out for Hyderabad to emerge as a global city and safe place to live in. At present, it ranks quite well among Indian cities as a good destination.

The Mercer’s Quality of Living rankings in 2019 listed Hyderabad as the best city to live in India for the fifth year in a row. In a more recent survey conducted by a leading website (holidify.com) of 34 Indian cities, Hyderabad emerged at the top.

List of crimes:

Honour Killings

  1. May 6: Nagaraju, a 25-year-old man was stabbed to death at the Saroornagar Tehsildar office around 9 pm. A Dalit, he had married a Muslim woman. The family of the woman was allegedly behind the murder. An inter-religious love marriage.
     2. May 21: Neeraj Kumar Panwar (24) was stabbed to death by 5 men, said to be relatives of his wife near the fish market in Begum Bazaar. An inter-caste love marriage.
  2. May 23: Two men inflicted serious injuries on a 24-year-old over his relationship with a girl in Alkapuri township.

According to reports at least 5 rape cases have been recorded in the last month:

  1. The most high-profile is the rape of a 17-year-old girl by 6 youth in the posh Jubilee Hills area on May 28. Police woke up into action days after the incident. They arrested all six, including the son of an AIMIM leader and the son of a top State Waqf Board functionary. Neither of the two took any moral stand on the alleged crime nor did they immediately resign from their posts.
  2. A 21-year-old man was arrested for the rape of a girl working in a retail store on May 31. He was arrested by Kala Pather Police station.
  3. On June 2, police arrested two men for raping a minor girl on May 31. The driver of the cab she boarded took the 12-year-old to a friend’s place, where the two committed the crime. Police arrested them.
  4. On June 6, a 23-year-old man lured a 17-year-old girl and raped her in a place falling under the Ramgopalpet PS of Secunderabad.
  5. In another case, a juvenile boy lured a girl to a Mall. They watched a movie and the boy allegedly raped her in the theatre.

Pubs:

On June 20, a young lady, working in an UN-affiliated organisation was assaulted and her modesty outraged by a group of 8 youngsters around 1.30 am in a pub in a 5-star hotel. The two friends of the lady were badly beaten up with bottles and they suffered grave injuries.

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