Friday, January 05, 2007

good news and bad news

Just when you think things are looking up, as the mobilization of the Rang De Basanti generation brought Manu Sharma to justice, a new "hot story" happens to remind you that the more things change, the more things stay the same. In this case, it was the Noida serial killer (or killers) and the strong evidence that the cops ignored the pleas of the poor people they'd sworn to protect. That is, unless the oath specifies that their meant to serve the rich--which would explain a lot.

Naturally, there's been a lot of furor following the discovery of the bodies in Noida (at least 17 children according to the last update I read, for those of you in foreign lands who don't trawl the AP and BBC updates). But I think one aspect of Indian policing and its faults hasn't gotten the attention it warrants: To an outside observer, it looks like their investigative procedures, both in terms of following clues and collecting evidence for subsequent trials, are far from adequate. I'm no expert, mind you, and I'm speaking in my unofficial capacity as a guy who sits on his ass watching TV, not having done any reporting on this story or spoken with anyone in the police about how they work. But both the Manu Sharma case and the Noida case suggest to me not only malfeasance/negligence/corruption, but also simple incompetence. For instance, with the TV cameras rolling, the police seemed to be digging up the Noida property without any effort to take note of how the bodies had been concealed or even taking much care to make sure they didn't damage the bones etc. In one shot, I distinctly remember seeing some constable-type standing back sortof holding his nose (ok, not literally, but he had that "I'm not touching THAT" posture) while a laborer-type got his hands dirty in the pit picking up a skull or something and wiped it off with an old rag. Now, I'm guessing CSI is pretty much bullshit. But this did not strike me as cutting edge police work.

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