A senior policeman had warned that, after the lockdown, there could be a significant rise in crime. Going by the impression, these days from news headlines, this seems to be coming true. There may not be statistics available on this, at present, but it seems logical because the economic loss faced by the common person has not just impoverished people, but also caused a lot of mental trauma. People have responded in many ways – some have had the strength to try new livelihoods, while others have committed suicide or taken to crime. News reports about such incidents often mention the Covid-19 crisis as the motivation for such acts.
India must respond to this as a nation and as a people. While, at many places, there have been community interventions such as landlords foregoing rent, businesses paying salaries despite months of closure, large scale distribution of food and other essentials to the poor, assistance to returning migrants, etc., there is no doubt that many kinds of persons at many places have fallen through the cracks. This has been particularly so in the case of the already marginalised, such as the elderly, those with disabilities, the psychologically and physically ill, daily wagers, laid off employees living in high cost cities, etc. Even teachers and priests fall in this category. It is only natural that they have succumbed in different ways to the pressures – suicide, crime, abandonment, etc.
While efforts are on to boost the economy, it will still be a long time before the pandemic is brought under control, and living conditions improve. The danger is that, in the rush to reorganise one’s own lives, these ‘invisible’ people may end up even more neglected. As such, a conscious effort has to be made at the community level to identify and help these people.
The tendency to commit criminal acts is greater among the youth, particularly those rendered jobless or denied the opportunity to enter the workforce at a crucial phase in their lives. Many of these youngsters are encouraged by what they see on the internet and social media to try ‘easy’ methods of making money, even as they do not have the sense to distinguish right from wrong. Society’s elders and other responsible people must focus on generating awareness against such seductive impulses. Also, like MGNREGA, there should be devised employment programmes for urban youths who have nothing to do and time on their hands. These can even be skills training programmes that help them learn to become employable or even self-employed. Most importantly, these have to be taken to such persons, rather than expect they do the reaching out. If this is not done, be prepared for a rise in crime and other negative consequences.