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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Monday, August 08, 2005

Crime-poverty link

Daily News: 05/08/2005" BY CHANDRA Edirisuriya

A perusal of the daily newspapers reveals that crime is prevalent mostly among the poor - "the wretched of the earth."

The tragedy of it is that most of these crimes, such as murder, are committed under sudden provocation on the spur of the moment while crimes among the rich are pre-meditated.

Suicide, the attempt to commit which is a chargeable offence, is also mostly prevalent among the poor, backward sections of society.

People below the poverty line are backward in many ways. Their economic plight makes them a frustrated lot. Their education too is interrupted owning to poverty. They being unable to have a square meal makes them physically unfit and therefore mentally imbalanced. They are far removed from intellectual and cultural pursuits.

They also lack other basic needs like decent clothing and shelter. That is exactly why in countries where there are planned economies the providing of the basic needs - food, clothing and shelter is given priority.

The Buddha never preached to a starving man. The Buddha commiserated with the poor but never condoned the commission of sin and admonished all irrespective of economic status to observe the Five Precepts.

The kings at times and even thereafter looked after the people as a father would look after his children. They went incognito to see whether the domain was administered properly. Even today in most countries the rulers are very close to the people.

Very recently Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, an economist of the calibre of Dr. Amartya Sen, whose forte was advocating elimination of poverty, told Collectors to implement a new deal for rural India.

"You have a unique opportunity in mediating social action for development. The structures of Panchayati Raj are in place but they need to be infused with vitality. These organisations enable you to mobilise collective action for development.

"India's strategic resource is its people. India has a billion opportunities in its people and you must see them so," he told them.

"Be sensitive enough to contribute to creating a just society. Be modest and lead decent but simple lifestyles eschewing conspicuous consumption and extravagant living. Have concern for those who work for you and inspire them through example," he concluded.

Conspicuous consumption, pecuniary emulation among others are classic concepts enunciated by the American "Marx", Thorstein Veblen, in his landmark thesis "The theory of the Leisure Class."

The State has the responsibility to look after all its subjects not simply the haves. The have nots need guidance at every step. The State must see to it that there are no idlers.

The maxim that one must move his hands to move his mouth is very sound economic thinking. A man who is engaged in a fruitful occupation will never have the time nor the inclination to be of criminal behaviour.

A household is an institution that needs be run full time. A responsible father and a caring mother will always think of the welfare of the children.

If they are engaged in some economic activity they will consequently have an income to bring up the children. Members of a happy household will always engage in activities that will increase their happiness such as religious and cultural pursuits and form habits like reading.

In contrast, the situation today is such that it has become fertile ground for the proliferation of crime.

Two incidents have been reported in the newspapers very recently of the paternal uncle raping the 11 year old niece and the maternal uncle raping the 13 year niece.

If these two able bodied men were working in their fields or engaged in any other physically exerting activity, if they were capable of appreciating nature and if they were aware of our cultural traditions nourished by one of the most refined philosophies ever known to man, Buddhism, they would never have descended so low.

Punishing them by sending them to jail, imposing fines on them and ordering them to pay damages is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

The newspapers also reported of a father-in-law setting the daughter-in-law on fire and meeting with his own death when running away from the scene of the crime by being knocked down by a vehicle.

Then again, there was a case of the mother-in-law harassing the daughter-in-law with an infant and an 11 year child. Unable to bear the harassment because even her husband was misled by his mother to believe that his wife was a worthless person she leaves with the two children to her mother's house.

The husband goes to the house and invites his wife to come back with the two children. She refuses and thereafter the husband takes the elder child to his house. The wife in desperation jumps into a well with the younger child in her arms.

These and thousands of other similar incidents reported and sometimes unreported reflect very badly on the present social order. Guidance that should be provided to these backward people by the religions and the political leadership is sorely lacking. The not so fortunate have gone astray like parentless and guardianless children.

The role that law enforcement arms of the State can play in this regard has been demonstrated recently. Of late there has been tremendous success in controlling and bringing to book the underworld elements and also detecting drug offenders. The 119 service of the police is also of immense help to the innocents harassed by criminal elements

The latest innovation by the Police to visit every home to control crime by handling the problems of each household that can lead to crime is indeed very commendable.

This will bring solace to hundreds of thousands of our unfortunate brethren who are drawn to crime through poverty, ignorance and for lack of proper guidance and succour.

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