Open any newspaper or tune in to a News Channel, and you can be pretty sure to stumble upon crimes of all sorts, ranging from petty thefts to dacoity, murder, terrorism, sexual crimes and the like.
The Statistics show that the miscreants have been quite focused and determined at their “jobs”. In India, for instance, as per the National Crime Records Bureau, incidences of crime since the early days of independence has gone up by more than 5 times, and this, of course, excludes a large number of unreported crimes, especially related to smaller thefts, crime against women and the many cases where the police just “refuse” to file an FIR. The western countries aren’t any better off either, with the UK recording an average of more than 2 violent attacks every minute (a very high figure for such a small country) and the US, which has the highest incarceration (imprisonment) rate in the world!
Root Causes for Increasing Crime Rates ∞
To a certain extent, poverty and unemployment do have their contributions to the increasing crime rates. However, it is not easy to explain away most of the crimes purely based on such simplistic reasoning. Here we examine some of the root causes behind rising crime rates and examine possible solutions for addressing the root causes.
Incomplete Education System ∞
The modern university education is focused primarily on providing extensive “Information” and “Data”, the sole purpose of which is to equip students to earn their livelihood. Thus, higher aspects of education, such as personality development, value inculcation and self-discovery are often ignored. With the focus purely on materialistic achievements, people are tempted to employ unfair means to achieve the desired objective. This mentality, if extended further, can easily lead one to cheat and subsequently graduate into white collar crimes, such as fraud, forgery and false pretences. The financial impact of such crimes has been in the range of billions of dollars, according to the “International Symposium of crime”. The recent “Satyam Scam” is only one among the many such examples.
A Superficial Culture ∞
A superficial materialistic culture that focuses on “What we possess” rather than “What we really are” is largely responsible for misdirecting the masses. Beguiled by an endless array of ads, slogans and culture trends prompting us to switch to a high-end luxurious lifestyle that we don’t need and can hardly afford, we are gripped with desire and then with frustration and dismay when we either fail to achieve this or if they fail to satisfy us. Hence we see spiralling statistics of depression, as well as a concomitant upsurge in use of alcohol and drugs, big time contributors to crime. Because “having more” becomes the criteria for success and happiness, we will generally stop at little to get more, including breaking the odd law or two if we can get away with it.
Dubious Scientific Theories ∞
Many modern theories that were floated around for the purpose of explaining the origin of the universe and the living beings, are primarily reductionist in nature, attributing the functioning of everything on the basis of elementary particles and molecules. Referring to a living being as merely a bag of chemicals breeds a destructive mentality: “why can I not destroy a particular lump of chemicals if it obstructs my path to success?”. Darwin’s evolution suggests that life is a “Struggle for Existence” where the strong win the struggle and the weak gradually become extinct. Such theories, in spite of being rejected by eminent scientists, have found their way into the academic textbooks, thus feeding generations of naive students with such perverted conceptions, which in fact served as breeding grounds for racism, fascism, colonization, slavery, and even world wars!
Lack of proper Role Models ∞
This has become a perennial issue in our society. The famous and powerful personalities in our society (such as the industrial tycoons, politicians and cinema stars) leave much to be desired in terms of their ideals. Most of them are involved either in corporate frauds, market manipulations, floating land acquisition norms, sex scandals, land scams or have connections with the underworld dons. Yet such personalities mostly get away with all of this, and moreover seem to get whatever they want, in terms of wealth, fame or followers. Some of them privately even sneer and scoff at people who try to stick to moral and ethical values, while simultaneously maintaining the opposite stand in front of the public. However, common people easily see through this farce and this sets a wrong example for the others who eventually lose their motivation to follow any sort of values and eventually start feeling that it is “ok” to breaking the rules the in order to make it “big” in life, as long as they are not caught.
Ineffective Law and Order System ∞
It is well known that many of the people responsible for law enforcement themselves are often hand in glove with criminals for making some quick gains by underhand means. Even otherwise, they are not too keen on nabbing the culprits unless the crimes are of larger magnitude. This sluggish attitude from the law enforcers encourages the criminals in their nefarious activities.
Alcoholism and Drugs ∞
Alcohol and drug consumption affects the mind and impairs judgement and rational thinking, causing an individual to lose control over his inhibitions and act on impulse. This has been a big-time contributor to crime worldwide. For instance, the US Department of Justice reports that 40% of the crimes involved alcohol abuse and up to 87% of the people arrested in urban areas tested positive for drugs!
The television has a powerful influence, especially on the impressionable children and youth. Research studies have shown that children who grew up watching violence depicted on television exhibit aggressive behaviour patterns. This is even reflected in their “play time”, where they act out violent scenarios, brandishing toy weapons, and screaming words such as “I am gonna kill you!”. By the time they grow into adolescence, they are like time bombs, ready to explode with all the violence they have been seeing on television. Generally, movies shown on television glorify all acts performed by the movie heroes. However, in recent times, it has been observed that the scope of these “heroic” acts has broadened to include many unacceptable acts such as flirting, occasional misbehaviour, alcohol indulgence, and occasional rowdyism or hooliganism. All this used to be portrayed as strictly “evil or bad” in the earlier times, but recently, all this is getting portrayed as “acceptable behaviour” by the movies, thus misleading the impressionable youth and children. Even adults are not spared from the influence, thanks to the mind programming techniques (such as subliminal effects) that most television ads and shows employ.
Prison Houses: How effective are they? ∞
The general opinion among people is that tougher prison sentences would act as a deterrent for the criminals. However, statistics show that some 60% of the prisoners re-offend within two years of their release. The reasons are not hard to understand. The Prison is an excellent place for the criminals to meet other like-minded criminal people and learn a few new tricks of the trade. The ancient Vedic Scriptures point out how our consciousness is shaped by our association, which in prisons is hard of the best kind. Seeing this fact, David Waddington, a former home secretary in the UK, said in a government paper, “Prison is an expensive way of making bad people worse”. Though training and rehabilitation courses aim at rectifying the prisoners and have been helpful in some cases, the statistics seem to indicate that they are not enough.
The Vedic Observer ∞
The Vedic Education Model was holistic and dwell into higher dimensions of knowledge encompassing spirituality, self-discovery, soul, Karma, Reincarnation, etc. The Vedic texts assert unequivocally that morality has to be founded on spirituality; otherwise, it soon becomes mere lip service. Unless one has an understanding of God as the supreme controller, there is nothing to impel him to stick to morality in his pursuit of pleasure. If a person has no understanding of higher laws of nature such as Karma, Re-Incarnation and of his identity as an eternal soul, then it would be natural enough for him to think that he could do anything he pleased and get away with it, provided he did it cleverly enough. Thus, moral education founded on spirituality can install the right values in people and make them disinclined to commit crimes. Occupational Education (required for maintaining oneself) can be imparted, but with an undercurrent of understanding that life has a higher (spiritual) purpose as well.
Scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita explain the various modes of material nature that affect our minds such as the mode of goodness (sattva-guna), mode of passion (rajo guna) and the mode of ignorance (Tamo guna). We usually act under a mixture of these 3 modes in various proportions at various times. People influenced predominantly by the mode of goodness are very less likely to commit crimes, whereas people in the modes of passion and especially ignorance (alcoholics, for example) are more likely to commit crimes. Scriptures have prescribed many activities that enable an individual to come into the mode of goodness and go even beyond that. These activities include having specified types of food, performing specified types of worship or giving specified types of charity.
All these activities make us peaceful and help to bring out the goodness in us. They also help in keeping negative qualities (such as lust, anger, greed, envy, etc) at bay. We are all intrinsically good, being parts of the supreme good, or God. We just need to revive our original spiritual nature and the goodness will emerge. This is done by curing the “material infection” that leads to crime. Recital of specific mantras or having spiritually sanctified food are some of the activities that help in this curing process.
In the recent times, spiritual organizations have been working more closely with Prison Inmates, with adequate support from prison authorities, for conducting workshops based on spiritual values, Self Discovery, Mantra recitations from Vedic scriptures, and personal counselling. All this has caused a considerable transformation in the lives of the inmates, many of whom have given up their bad ways and bad habits for good!
Hence, controlling crimes is more to do with training and transforming people and cultures rather than making punishments more stringent.
Authored by Vivek Devarajan