Between the Lines

Crime in Bihar has nothing to do with liquor prohibition

The available crime data shows all kinds of trends.

 |  Between the Lines  |  3-minute read |   20-01-2017
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Nine months after Bihar imposed complete liquor ban it is still making news. Recently, for  PM Modi praising Nitish Kumar for his "campaign against liquor", and also for reports claiming that crime in Bihar has actually gone up by 13 per cent post prohibition. Such analysis are smart piece of work considering the Bihar CM himself bragged about crime in the state going down by 27 per cent between April 2016 and 2015.

The interesting part about both of these analyses is that both are correct. Post prohibition, crime in Bihar has gone up, and also gone down. The conclusion you draw would be entirely based on which set of data you look at, and how you analyse it.

Has the crime gone down?

A look at Bihar CM's claims first. In April 2016, Bihar police registered 14,279 cases of cognizable crimes. In April 2015, 16,483 cases were registered; it's a fall of 15 per cent. Murder cases fell from 268 in April 2015, to 192 in April 2016— a fall of 28 per cent. Similar trends can be noticed for various other crime heads. So, CM Nitish Kumar, wherever he may have derived that percentage from, may have been correct in his claim.

nitish_012017043639.jpg In April, 14,279 cases of cognizable crimes were registered by the police, and in Oct 16,153, showing an increase of 13 per cent. [Photo: DailyO]

Though, if only he had looked at reported cases for March 2015 and March 2016, a month before Bihar Excise (Amendment) Bill 2016 came into effect, he'd have noticed a similar trend. In March 2015, 16,062 cases of cognizable crime were reported, while in March 2016 only 15,835 were registered. Murder cases too showed a decrease: From 274 in March 2015, to 258 in 2016.

Has the crime gone up?

The claim that crime in the state has risen by 13 per cent seems to be based on a comparison of cognizable crime cases registered in April 2016 (when prohibition was imposed), and Oct 2016 (latest data available). In April, 14,279 cases of cognizable crimes were registered by the police, and in Oct 16,153, showing an increase of 13 per cent.

Murder, dacoity and various other crimes too have seen a spike between April and October. But, this too is selective data and such trends can be seen for other years too. For example: In 2014, Cognizable crimes in Bihar increased from 13,154 in April to 16,277 in Oct, which is an increase of 24 per cent, without a liquor ban.

In fact, a comparison of total cognizable cases registered between April 2016 and Oct 2016 with cases registered in the same duration a year before shows that crime has actually fallen by about eight per cent. All these analyses are based on reported cases which do not present the complete picture.

Does liquor have anything to do with crime at all?

When it comes to drawing a connection between liquor prohibition and crime, the available crime data shows all kinds of trends: According to NCRB 2015 data, Kerala, where liquor ban was introduced in August 2014, has the highest crime rate among Indian states. Gujarat, where liquor ban has been in place since 1960s, has a crime rate higher than many states with no liquor ban. This only means that there is no trend at all.

Also read - Are Nitish Kumar and Modi coming closer?


Rashmi Singh Rashmi Singh @rashmisc

The writer is an Associate Editor with NewsFlicks, India Today.

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