Assam continues to witness violent crimes against women with distressing frequency. The State has been in turmoil in the past week over the dastardly rape and murder of a Class V schoolgirl at Batadrava in gaon district, along with similar incidents reported from Jagiroad in Morigaon district, Udali under Lanka PS in Hojai district, Borkhetri and Mukalmua in lbari district, and several other places. Citizens and students' organizations across the State have taken to the streets in protest, demanding arrest and exemplary punishment to the perpetrators, along with better security for women, particularly school and college going girls. As per the tiol Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data released last December, Assam was ranked second in terms of rate of violent crimes against women, just behind New Delhi. The report said that altogether 20,869 cases of crime against women were registered in Assam in 2016, of which there were 5,339 kidpping/abduction cases, 1,779 rapes, 370 attempts to commit rape, and 3,378 assaults with intent to outrage a woman’s modesty. This apart, 157 dowry deaths also showed Assam continuing to figure high in terms of domestic violence against women. Last month, in the Assam Assembly, government figures showed that 29,223 incidents of violence against women were reported across the State in the past two years. In the current fincial year till January 6, complaints have been registered for 8,335 physical assault cases, 1,457 rape incidents and 4,314 kidppings. Specifically for rape offence, 3,009 cases have been filed since April 2016, nine women were killed and 1,786 people arrested; this translates to an average four-five rape incidents in the State every day. Replying on behalf of Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal, who also holds the Home portfolio, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary told the House that the State government had initiated steps like formation of a women’s investigation cell in the police force, setting up of a women’s cell in every district and subdivision, and a special juvenile police unit in the district headquarters. All these steps are long overdue, for the average police station in the State can be highly intimidating for women victims. There are complaints galore of callous police personnel even refusing to register FIRs. But the real problem is the sil’s pace at which crimil investigations proceed. The burden of investigation is borne by middle ranking police officials like sub-inspectors, who are frequently transferred. It is not uncommon for such officials to lug around 500-600 case diaries at various stages of investigation. If crimes against women figure low in their scheme of things, the lopsided crimil investigation system is to blame. Frequently, the lack of support from forensic labs nullifies good field work by policemen. Without dedicated cells in every police station working to crack crime cases on a continual basis and buttressed by adequate infrastructural support, the investigation process can hardly reach court. In turn, the dismal conviction rate due to poor evidence and long pendency has bred a culture of impunity in the State. It is this that emboldens wanbe crimils to have their way.
Crimes against Women
Looming Trade War
At the World Economic Forum (WEF) meet in Davos, Switzerland this January, President Dold Trump had put on his characteristic sales pitch to declare that America is “open for business”, that it is competitive once again with business confidence “at an all-time high” ever since he took charge at the White House. However, he had also made it clear that despite US support for free trade, it needs to be fair and reciprocal. More specifically, he had warned: “The US will no longer turn a blind eye to unfair economic practices including massive intellectual property theft, industrial subsidies and pervasive state-led economic planning.” There are now strong indications he will act on his threat, particularly against Chi for “economic aggression”. Earlier this month, Trump slapped hefty tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, aimed at hitting Chinese over-production, followed by tariffs on Chinese consumer goods. More tough action is likely after US Trade Department investigations recently revealed “Chi’s state-led, market-distorting efforts to force, pressure and steal US technologies and intellectual property”. The alarm has been sounded at Washington of Beijing’s ‘systematic use of state funds to purchase hi-tech US companies for their cutting edge knowledge, while coercing other US companies to disclose their intellectual property’. If Trump ups the ante, he could target Chi’s high-tech sector and also restrict Chinese investments in the US. Meanwhile, Beijing has cautioned it will not take a trade offensive lying down, and it is being speculated US agricultural products and transport equipments are first on its hit list. With the US running a $375 billion deficit in goods trade alone with Chi, a full-blown trade war will be badly bruising for both. The fallout could impact the European Union, as well as roil currency and stock markets across the globe. India will be weighing its options too, considering that the largest share of its exports (16.13 percent) goes to the US, while just 3.42 percent goes to Chi. However, India’s trade deficit with Chi stands comparatively higher, as much as $ 51 billion in 2016-17. At the ongoing India-Chi Joint Group on Economic Relations, Trade, Science and Technology meet in New Delhi, Chi has promised to address the widening trade deficit issue while India has sought greater access for its goods and services in the Chinese market, particularly for agri and pharma products. It remains to be seen how New Delhi responds to Beijing’s push for ‘market economy’ status (which requires slashing anti-dumping duties on Chinese goods), along with greater focus on the mega free-trade pact ‘Regiol Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)’ currently being negotiated.