Economic Crimes & Moral Bankruptcy

Many things have been said about extortions and kidnappings for ransom. No doubt all these are crimes which should not be tolerated in a civilized society. As rightly mentioned by Nagaland’s Home Minister Imkong L Imchen recently, tough action including arrest should be made against any individual or organization found ‘collecting money’ from public, in the highways and others. It is therefore the job of the police to go after those who create disturbances through their criminal activities. However, isn’t it now time for society as a whole to also look for a long term solution to such crimes? The real challenge in addressing the problem of crime/s will require going beyond law enforcement. If we look carefully, many of the crimes taking place are economic in nature. While we may blame the unhealthy culture of ‘materialism and hedonism’ prevailing in our society for the woes taking place, yet we should not ignore the ever widening socio-economic gap between the rich and the poor.
We are not here to defend criminal activity. However many of the people committing such notorious crimes are also economically deprived from the mainstream development process. We need to look deeper and find out the root cause/s which drives people to commit crimes. At the end of the day, it boils down to the basic issue of food-shelter-clothing and about daily survival. Fighting crime is therefore not only a matter of law enforcement but more importantly it requires social-economic interventions and livelihood programmes. The State, civil society and the Naga Churches should also look at ‘out of the box’ measures to fight crimes. We know that huge sums of money go into policing and enforcement. If collectively we can work on some form of economic rehabilitation for those who commit such crimes as extortion and kidnappings, then many of them could be convinced to stay off the streets and begin a new life of economic sustenance however small it may be. Our Church and NGO sector should seriously look into this suggestion and maybe come out with some kind of plan.
While police action and punitive measure is the immediate objective, we need to start looking at a long term solution. And for this to be done, it is clearly evident that the development process has to become ‘inclusive’. The fruits of development must reach the grassroots. State resources and benefits must be fairly distributed. Simply put we need a development model which is people centered. Many times the development process is being hijacked by corruption. As a result, deprivation takes place. When people are deprived of their needs, restlessness sets in and this in turn leads to the kind of social turmoil which we are witnessing today in Naga society. The present state of affairs—corruption and illegality within the system—is fomenting others i.e. the common man to also cash in on the loopholes. ‘If people at the top can do it, why can’t we also have our share’ is the attitude that has started to influence the general public. Unless there is the will on the part of our leaders to fight corruption and illegality, they should not expect a moral correction from the public. Maybe it is time to look at law & order and the problem of crimes from the prism of economic deprivation and society’s own moral bankruptcy.