COVID-19 and lockdowns are not only having a toll on our daily lives but are also causing a noticeable shift in the type of criminal activities.

With people locked amidst the walls of their homes, there is a significant change in the techniques and statistics of crimes globally. There has been a roughly 20% drop in the crime rates, however, this comes along with signs of an increase in domestic violence and cyber frauds. For a crime to take place the contact of the criminal with its potential target is imperative, since lockdown has changed our movement activities, there is a similarly dramatic change in the distribution of criminal activities.

The shortage in the supply of face masks and medical equipment has made them the new targets for theft. There have been examples where thieves have been found stealing Oxygen canister from hospitals, raids on food banks, scams, and counterfeit goods relating to coronavirus have been observed. Staying indoors will also cause an increase in child abuse. As per the statistics of 2016, 40% of the child assault and abuse took place at homes by mothers and fathers. Now, the open of liquor shops and stores in Delhi has a probability of worsening the situation, for both children as well as women.

The pandemic has resulted in diverting the entire attention of the policymakers and police towards finding its cure. This has provided the criminal group to enhance their scope in illegal markets dealing in drugs and trafficking. Certain reports are even suggestive of the expenditure by the criminal markets on this disruption. A plane was sighted landing at Osvaldo Vieira Airport on 18th March – after the airports have been shut for preventing the spread of pandemic – it raised strong suspicions that the closure was being used as a guide to land planes carrying cocaine.

With the increase in the demand for medical supplies, the sale of counterfeit medical supplies has surged from the very start of the outbreak, as has been suggested by the smuggling and theft of medical supplies. Authorities in Iran, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan have intercepted attempts to smuggle essential stocks of medical face masks and hand sanitizer. In Italy, police have seized counterfeit masks in several regions. Adverts for masks have emerged on dark-web forums, while hundreds of sites on the open web market discounted masks that may not be legitimate, or even exist.

With no permission to go out, people have been spending most of their time online this has lead to a promotion of illicit business, especially those which are cyber oriented. A number of cyber phishing scams have already emerged, where trustworthy sources, such as the World Health Organisation have been hacked to gather information or spread malware content. INTERPOL has issued a warning against frauds whereby people are tricked into buying non-existent medical supplies, making payments intended for medical care into accounts controlled by criminals. It is estimated that millions of dollars have already been lost by the victims of such scams.

With a greater amount of free time and lockdown the online porn industry will undergo advancement. Pornhub has already made its premium version free, while this site is legal, the increased demand will provoke the criminal groups to trick and exploit sex workers, drug users, and other vulnerable people. The FBI has issued a warning that children who home-school, play games online, and use social media during school closures may be targeted by sexual predators, as they spend extended time online. Other online scams targeting the economic vulnerabilities of people such as lotteries and fraudulent investment schemes are also coming into play.

Indoor criminal activities have got a significant increase during the lockdown. In India, the National Commission for Women had received a total of 587 complaints from 23rd March to 16th April, out of which 239 are of domestic violence. According to data shared by the NCW, 123 cases of domestic violence were received between February 27 and March 22. In the last 25 days, the commission received 239 more such complaints. This locking of the abuser and victim in the same home has resulted in a steep rise in Domestic violence cases in India. The UN chief António Guttered called for measures to address the “horrifying global surge in domestic violence.” In one of his tweets he mentioned, “peace is not just the absence of war. Many women under lockdown for #COVID19 face violence where they should be safest: in their own homes.”

Research conducted by WHO reveals disturbing details regarding the physical, sexual, reproductive, and mental violence phased by women, during these times. women who experience physical or sexual abuse are twice as likely to have an abortion, and that experience nearly doubles their possibility of falling into depression or facing other mental health-related issues. In some regions, they are 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV, and evidence exists that sexually assaulted women are 2.3 times more likely to have alcohol disorders. 87,000 women were intentionally killed in 2017, and more than half were killed by intimate partners or family members.

UNFPA has responded by working with trustworthy organizations and religious leaders to raise awareness of the heightened risks of gender-based violence during the pandemic. “We need to ensure that measures are in place to prevent, protect and mitigate the consequences of all forms of violence, stigma, and discrimination, especially those against women and girls during quarantine and self-isolation processes and procedures,” said Visare Mujko-Nimani, UNFPA’s head of office in Kosovo, as per the UN news.

Feature Image Credits: Europol

Kriti Gupta 

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Newly elected Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) President, Rocky Tuseed now faces a setback to his victory run. On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court issued a notice to him after an intervening application held him guilty of concealing personal facts, including his arrest on criminal charges. The application was filed by Suman Chauhan and Jivesh Tiwari, counsel for Rajat Choudhary, the Presidental candidate of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhya Parishad (ABVP). This September, Tuseed broke a five-year spell when he was elected as the first President of the DUSU from the National Students Union of India (NSUI) since 2012. The controversial candidate won the election with 16,299 votes, beating Choudhary who gained 14,709 votes.

The Allegation

The ABVP has played the Lyngdoh trump card; a recurring move in University elections across the country. The Lyngdoh committee guidelines which were implemented in May 2006 are to be followed in the Students’ Union elections in order to establish accountability, transparency, and discipline. The complainants have claimed that Tuseed hasn’t abided by these guidelines in his run for President.

Firstly, the application claims that Tuseed did not disclose that an FIR had been registered against him in Rajouri Garden on August 6, 2014, under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint). It also mentions that he was sent to judicial custody on August 28, 2014, to September 15, 2014.In this respect, the Lyngdoh Committee guidelines state: The candidate shall not have a previous criminal record, that is to say, he should not have been tried and/or convicted of any criminal offence or misdemeanour. The candidate shall also not have been subject to any disciplinary action by the University authorities.

Secondly, the application alleges that Tuseed had been given ‘essential repeat’ in two semesters while pursuing a Masters in Buddhist Studies in the academic session 2016- 2017. The Lyngdoh committee states that “the candidate should in no event have any academic arrears in the year of contesting election”.

The NSUI stance

The NSUI has defended Tuseed by refuting charges in a press release earlier today. It accuses Choudhary of approaching the Delhi High Court on the basis of a false FIR which was registered by the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) government in August 2014 against a group of students, during the 2014 DUSU elections. According to the NSUI, the complainant had withdrawn the case against Tuseed within a month. They’ve also pointed out the fact that the newly elected ABVP DUSU Secretary, Mahameda Nagar is also being investigated in a criminal case filed by the Dean of Faculty of Law.

A bumpy presidential run

This is the third time that Tuseed has been accused of disciplinary charges. When the Delhi University’s Chief Election Officer’s (CEO) office released their list of candidates on 5 September, the NSUI candidate, Tuseed’s name had not been mentioned on “disciplinary grounds”. The NSUI had then sought to campaign for an independent candidate, Alka, until the High Court acquitted him of charges on 9 September, two days before the DUSU elections. This arbitrariness had also dogged his presidential run in the Department of Buddhist Studies last year. The election commission had cleared him to contest the election which he subsequently went on to win.

In the running for this year’s DUSU election, ABVP candidate, Choudhary had also been caught up in controversy. Independent candidate Raja Choudhary had been given police protection following his complaint to the police and the chief election commissioner, in which he alleged that he had been beaten up and threatened by the ABVP candidate. According to Raja, the ABVP candidate had feared that the students would get confused between the two names- Raja Choudhary and Rajat Choudhary, and would mistakenly vote for the other candidate rather than the candidate of their choice.

What now?

Justice Indermeet Kaur has sought a reply from Tuseed on November 15. The High Court has termed the alleged concealment on his part as “very serious”.

Keeping in mind the fact that the Lyngdoh Committee guidelines are more often flouted than not, students wonder whether any strong action will be taken against Tuseed. The same guidelines also mandate that candidates should not be affiliated with any national political party and that the campaigning expenditure per candidate should amount to ?5000. Yet, DUSU elections have been more about contesting parties than individual candidates. The expenditure requirement has also become a joke, so much so that when Tuseed cheekily announced in a discussion on national television that his total expenditure amounted to ?4800, every speaker laughed it off.

With inputs from The Indian Express

Image Credits: Financial Express

Swareena Gurung
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