The noise being generated about recent incidents of rape in Uttar Pradesh might make it seem like the state is particularly bad when it comes to this most heinous of crimes against women, but official data suggests quite the contrary. In fact, UP has among the lowest rates of rape among all major states in India.
The National Crime Records Bureau’s publication Crime in India 2009 — the latest edition of that annual report — shows that with 1,759 rape victims in 2009, UP had 0.9 rape victims per lakh population. Compare that with the 1,631 victims in a much smaller state like Assam, which means a rate of 5.3 rape victims per lakh population, almost six times the rate in UP.
The five best states or UTs in 2009, among those with a population of 100 lakh or more, were Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, UP and Bihar in that order, all of them having less than one rape victim per lakh population.
At the other end of the scale, the five worst were Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and West Bengal, in descending order of the rate. Even the best among this lot, West Bengal had a rate of 2.6 rape victims per lakh population, that is about thrice as bad as in UP. The Congress raising the issue of lawlessness in UP in this context seems particularly ironic given the fact that not one of the five best states or UTs had a Congress government in 2009, although Tamil Nadu had one run by an ally. he truth is that the political colour of the government has little co-relation with rape statistics.
It is likely that social factors lead to greater under-reporting of crimes against women in a state like UP or Bihar than in, say, Delhi. However, that still does not explain why MP, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan (2.3 victims per lakh population) or Haryana (2.5 per lakh) do not have lower figures than UP or Bihar. After all, there is no reason to believe that there is any less of a stigma attached to rape victims in these states than in UP or Bihar.
Even a single case of a woman getting raped anywhere is one rape too many and deserves to be condemned. However, when crimes like these are sought to be used for political ends, those raising the bogey also deserve condemnation. If those protesting against the recent rapes in UP are seriously concerned about crimes against women in India, they would be better advised to spend their time and energy on figuring out how rapes and other such crimes can be minimised if not eliminated. That would involve, among other things, changing the gender profile of the police force as well as sensitising male policemen to the heinousness of the crime and the trauma of the victims. It is a harder job than agitating with a political motive, but a job that needs to be done.