Can India deal with more crimes like the Noida case?
The bungled police investigation into the killing of a teenage girl in Noida would almost be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. It led me wondering about crime in a booming India and yet again whether India has the infrastructure – this time it’s police not highways – to deal with yet another challenge from a booming economy.
In the case of Noida, one of India’s up-coming hi-tech cities, a teenager girl was found dead, her throat slit, in her room. Police name a “prime suspect”, the Nepali house helper. But a family friend later finds the home help — his throat slit apparently like the victim’s — in the terrace of the same house as the victim.
The police had somehow missed the second corpse on their visits to the murder scene.
According to some newspapers on Wednesday, police are now clueless. There are unconfirmed reports of reporters contaminating the murder scene, forensic evidence left unsealed on the spot.
Firstly, why are domestic helps so often immediately named as suspects? I’ve lost count of the number of newspaper stories about suspect maids. I wonder how many are proved wrong.
And secondly, are police with the resources and expertise to deal with new and growing crimes in India’s burgeoning urban cities?
The murder case has resonated in the media, perhaps helped by the fact that this was the kind of rising middle class family in India that millions identify with — a dentist couple in the new city of Noida where thousands of white collar professionals now live in newly-built tower blocks.
But for all it’s gleaming malls and its location a few miles away from Delhi, Noida is part of Uttar Pradesh, what is often called India’s most populous and lawless state. It’s hardly new to controversy when it comes to the police.
Remember the Nithari serial murders in Noida last year? Then also the police were widely criticised for ignoring the initial pleas of poor Indians in a slum nearby to probe the case of missing children. Later more than a dozen bodies were found at the back of a nearby upscale house.
From this evidence, this new tech city of Noida is living with a police force that is struggling to modernise.
People I have spoken to in Noida — including a foreign executive with a software company — are very worried about rising crime and the lack of police responses.
As India grows, crime may also rise. For many foreigners, crime in India often seems very low given widespread poverty that contrasts with huge shows of wealth. Try living in Sao Paulo and Mexico City, where thousands of people are kidnapped every year, to see what real insecurity is.
India is in danger of heading that way as wealth disparities rise and cities grow. Will India’s police be able to nip this trend in the bud?
So far, looking at this latest Noida case, the omens are not good.