The claim of Kerala police that they have finally identified and nabbed the murderer of Jisha allowed both LDF and UDF to heave a sigh of relief: LDF because they can claim to have cracked the case which seemed intractable and UDF because they can claim that the investigation under their watch was going in the same direction before they laid down office. Many people are still not quite convinced that the police have actually been able to uncover the whole truth so far. Social media is abuzz with all kinds of stories. However that be, one thing is quite clear: Kerala police have not moved fast enough to improve their data base, crime and criminal tracking systems and investigative capabilities.
Director General of Police has been talking of his experience in investigating complex criminal cases while he was posted in CBI. Without diminishing his personal record as a CBI investigator, however, it needs to be noted that CBI as an organization does not have a very good reputation for criminal investigation and their conviction rate is abysmal. Notwithstanding their claims to the contrary, CBI is not seen by the rest of the world as a good model of a crime investigation organization. DGP himself, I am sure, will accept this. Kerala Police should, therefore, try to exceed rather than be stuck with the CBI systems. There are better examples outside India which Kerala Police should try to emulate.
DGP's response to the growing public demand for a better accounting of Kerala's large migrant population was evasive. That is understandable as DGP cannot make announcements on matters that need careful examination and policy decisions at the highest level. Nevertheless the steeply increasing incidents of crime and violence by migrant workers can no longer be brushed aside.
A system of proper background checks and registration should not be seen as harassment of poor migrants who come to Kerala in search of a livelihood. On the other hand, such a system will only help to separate sheep from goats. While there is a case for greater vigilance against criminal elements joining the anonymity of a large migrant population living in ghettos unknown to both the police and the larger public, there is an equally strong case for treating these people more humanely. A register of migrant workers backed up with biometric and DNA information can not only lead to quick identification of the criminal elements but also to a system of healthy accommodation and guaranteed minimum wages. Only those who want to exploit the hapless people rushing to a new Eldorado mainly from the Eastern and North Eastern states and those who want to use them for clandestine anti-national activities should be against this.
Take the instance of Jisha murder. Forget the controversies surrounding the police investigation and presume that the police have correctly identified the Assamese migrant as the murderer. This case would have been cracked much quicker if only the police had full information about all the migrant workers living in the neighbourhood. Would that be more important than the American style concern about infringement of privacy? Why should any law abiding citizen be afraid of his biometric data being part of public record? We do not object to biometric data being collected for Aadhaar cards or American or European visa.
I would say that the time has come to make it mandatory for every medium and long term resident of the state to possess a biometric based smart identity card in which all essential information would be embedded. It should be a multipurpose smart card which may also serve as, for example, a driving license or voter ID thus obviating the need to have multiple documents for separate purposes. Such smart domicile cards are not basically meant to be a crime prevention or crime detection tool but are essentially to be used for nearly all interactions with governmental agencies sans personal visits and bribe-giving. Incidentally this will also help the police in their work.
The nature and methodologies of criminal investigation have undergone a sea change in developed countries in the last few years with the advances in technology leading to development of new tools. I do not know how much of these have been absorbed and internalized by Kerala police. During my interactions with the authorities in various states and independent experts while I was a member of UPSC I found that a common problem with the state police everywhere was the neglect of forensic labs by the police top brass. In many states forensic labs are almost lying in disuse. Kerala is certainly much better than many other states and retired officers/scientists of Kerala's forensic labs did not seem to share the grievances of their counterparts in other states. Indeed some of them remembered with gratitude that they had been treated with respect and their expert opinions were highly valued by the top police officers in Kerala. It is necessary to build on this good tradition.
The LDF election manifesto had promised functional separation of the wings dealing with crime investigation and maintenance of law and order in line with the unimplemented Supreme Court directive. In my view, setting up a separate bureau for investigation of serious crimes may be even more important than a mechanical separation of the wings dealing with the two basic functions of police. Rather than trying to graft new expertise on an existing organization the government should set up the suggested 'Serious Crimes Investigation Bureau' as a greenfield organization with definite orientation towards use of modern technology for solving crimes. The organization should be reasonably flat without the ubiquitous police constables as foot soldiers and should have its own R&D section. The requirement of educational qualification and the method of selection should be such as to ensure that even the fresh recruits are familiar with the relevant technologies. The top brass of the new bureau should be trained in the latest crime investigation techniques by the best people in the world in this field and the forensic labs should be simultaneously upgraded with not only the latest equipment but also training of the technical personnel. Equally important will be improvements in the system of intra police communications for real time exchange of crime information and data.
Had an effective criminal tracking system using modern technology been in place, the Jisha murderer would have been identified within 24 hours though it could still have taken a month or two to nab him. If clear instructions on how to preserve available evidence on the spot and stringent action for any violation been there, the quick disposal of the dead body and destruction of much of the evidence would not have happened without inviting quick retribution on the deviant policemen. The new government has its job well cut out in this regard.