Crime and punishment

Amal Chatterjee
13 min readFeb 11, 2017


Source : google photo

Synopsis : The news media are full of crimes committed everyday somewhere so people become inured to such news but crimes are a social phenomenon that have their origin in the degradation of the social life of people due to economic pressure and the opportunity for stealing public money. The punishment given to criminals are often harsh to lenient but seldom people talk of rehabilitation of them. The blog throws some light on the issue.

We hear almost every day and see it in the TV news that horrendous crimes are being committed in every part of the world as a routine but seldom the criminals are brought to justice. When Mexican drug syndicate leader is arrested, it makes big news but rarely people mention how the drug smuggling continues and who are doing it.

We all know how the smugglers from Latin America are always working on new ways to bring in drugs to the markets in North America because that is their major source of income. They fly the drugs in using private small planes and land in a dirt strip somewhere, they use false bottoms in trucks to hide huge amounts of drugs and cross over from Tijuana or other parts south of the border. They use high speed boats and even submersibles to bring in drugs.

These criminals have a lot of money to buy high tech gears to equip their boats and planes that warn them of approaching coast guards or agents at the border. They have communication equipment and listening devices so that they can hear the police chatter and take advantage to evade capture. They dig tunnels under the border fence and bring in drugs and they use mules who risk their lives for just a few thousand dollars and often get caught.

Today I would like to write not just about the drug menace facing the humanity but about criminality of all sorts that plague the nations all over the world.

Criminals lure uneducated girls in the villages of Nepal with a promise of a good job in big Indian cities and promptly sell them to brothels from where they cannot escape. This is called human trafficking and it is happening on a very large scale worldwide. They take huge amount of money from desperate people who are fleeing their country due to war or oppression or famine and want to go to Europe where they hope to get jobs and a new life.

These traffickers then put them of rickety boats without life jackets and send them on their way to Lampedusa or other such islands in the Mediterranean but thousands have died when their boats capsized. Others have been rescued by the Italian or Greek coast guard people and brought them to camps in Europe where they languish for years before the authorities can decide what to do with them. Some are intercepted by the Australian coast guards and sent to languish for years in prison camps in remote islands administered by Australia because no one wants them.

Then there are war refugees from the Middle Eastern countries who are fleeing to safer countries and they too are victimized by the criminals who promise to smuggle them across some porous borders in Hungary or Lithuania for a huge sum of money and quickly abandon them at the first sign of police or border guards.

Some are economic migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan or other poor countries who are desperate for a better life in Europe pay the smugglers huge amount of money to get them fake papers and passports or even fake visas so it is a thriving business that keeps on growing.

The human smugglers place attractive and innocent ads in European news papers offering secretarial jobs or guest relation officer jobs to young and often pretty women and trap these women into the life of prostitution in the Middle East from where they cannot escape.

In China and Vietnam they recruit young women for prostitution in Hong Kong or Macau so these poor girls of rural villages who think that they are being offered jobs in factories or bars end up as slaves of pimps and brothel owners.

According to the UN reports there are millions of people being trafficked this way earning the criminals billions of dollars. What is tragic is that the victims are often the poor people who are desperate to find a country that will promise them a better life than they have in Somalia , Libya or Syria so they take the desperate measures to cross the ocean in unseaworthy boats and die in the process. Often the bodies of babies wash ashore in Italy or Greece.

In some countries the authorities are complicit in the business of trafficking and make money out of the smugglers or they close their eyes to the prostitution that thrives in Dubai or Abu Dhabi and do little to rescue these hapless women from their life of misery because they say they need these foreign women to serve the need and to safeguard their own women.

Then there are slaves called bonded laborers who are forced to work without pay in brick factories in India or Pakistan just because their parents borrowed a paltry sum they could not pay back. Some of these slaves are as young as ten.

There are some efforts to rescue these children from time to time but only a lucky few get such help from the NGOs or the government while countless others languish in their life of slavery. The NGOs are threatened with violence by the slave owners or the pimps so they are afraid and have limited ability to help in the face of such odds but their work nevertheless is admirable.

A Nepalese woman who was trafficked and managed to escape her brothel now works full time helping and rescuing the village girls. She has opened up a shelter for them where they learn a trade to earn a living but the scale of the problem is too big for just one woman to handle.

Then there are smugglers of tiger skins or skins of endangered animals, of looted artifacts from Angkor Wat or other temples in Cambodia, ivory smuggling, looted artifacts from graves in Egypt and other countries , smuggling of rare live animals, birds and such so the list is very long . It all happens because the criminals make a lot of money this way. If they get caught once in a while, they pay a fine and spend a few weeks in a jail somewhere but eventually take up where they left. It is all part of the operating cost.

The terrorists in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan sell drugs to finance their insurgency so poppies are grown in big farms where the opium is extracted. The poor farmers say that it is their only source of income so they keep on planting poppies. The terrorists pay the local governors or others or threaten them with death if they interfere in their operations.

It is the same story in the Northern Burma called Myanmar these days where the war lords make huge amount of money from poppy fields and sell the drugs to Thailand, Vietnam and other countries. The Vietnamese officials made great amount of money from drugs they imported in their private planes and sold to the American soldiers who then shipped them to the United States in the body cavities of dead GIs.

I will not even get into what the Yakuza in Japan or the Italian mafia in Sicily or in the United States do because their illegal activities are well known and shown in movies like Godfather but it is fair to say that there are criminal gangs like mafia in every country you can imagine where they operate either with impunity or in collaboration with corrupt officials.

There is a thriving business of the manufacture of illegal and fake travel documents of any kind that the criminals use to get around. Not all the countries have e passports and the data base that scans people at the borders so these then become the back doors for illegal entry. Just walk down the streets of Amsterdam and pass the word around in some shady night club where naked women dance and serve drinks and you will meet some of these characters who will get you any document you can think of for a price.

In the movie The day of the jackal, the assassin goes to Bayreuth in Germany to get a fake document from a fellow who is very good at making them and kills the fellow after getting his fake passport. He then proceeds to assassinate De Gaulle , fails and is shot dead by the police inspector.

This is the criminal world we live in. No one really is safe from the crime because it touches the lives of millions of people daily. While most people are ordinary people who live their ordinary lives and are decent people who mind their own business, there are those who are anything but decent.

Criminality starts early

It is not a coincidence that ghettos where very poor people live are the spawning ground for the criminals anywhere. It starts with a broken family where a single mother struggles with her laundry washing job and where her illegitimate children live a life of destitution and hopelessness. They drop out of school early and join gangs that terrorize the neighborhood and are into selling drugs and running women as prostitutes.

Later they graduate to a higher level of criminality that may include contract killing or collecting money from people who owe them by beating them up like Rocky Balboa.

The sale of retail drugs brings them money and fancy cars and clothes so they are hooked. The feeling of “we will not be deprived of anything and will get it by any means” is strong among them so they get into this life even if it means ending up dead in a gully somewhere. The mafia people bring their victims to the desert near Las Vegas, give them a shovel to dig their grave and then kill them. It is all done very neatly and professionally in the name of doing business.

Now let us go to the villages in Africa and see why the criminality is so low there. In Africa the villages are often remote and isolated. Some villages in Mali are so remote that it is difficult to travel there over bad dirt paths during the rainy season. This isolation is a blessing for them because it brings all the villagers closer to each other. They all know each other and are somehow related through marriage. There the village chief who is an elected person is supreme and is respected.

All the village quarrels are sorted out at the village council meetings where a fair system of justice prevails. The village council chief who is also the village chief makes his decision based on certain facts so people accept the ruling and peace is restored.

Outsiders are not received by anyone unless the village chief orders them to do so while the visitors wait under a tree. Once the order is received, the villagers then receive the guests and clean and prepare a hut for them. Women then bring hot water to wash and prepare the meals for them all as a part of their hospitality. Only then the village chief will ask the visitors the reason for their visit.

Petty criminality like stealing a goat or some corn from the field is swiftly punished by the chief who may impose a fine or restitution in other ways. No one can do anything illegal without the knowledge of the village council that meets and takes certain measures to stop such activities.

But what is the most interesting part of their social life is the fact that old people keep an eye on all children to see that they behave well. Now try spanking someone’s kid in America who is misbehaving and see where that gets you but in many countries in rural Africa the kids are well behaved and their parents are grateful to the elders for their discipline.

In cities where the elders do not have such power and where there is no village chief and council, things are different so the crime thrives. In that way, Bamako and Dakar are no different from any ghetto in the US or Europe where there are gangs that operate with impunity.

Now we come back to Asia and see that people live in isolation in middle class communities and do not know their neighbors so do not care what happens to them. It is like in Europe or in North America where the massive suburbs where most people live breeds this isolation and aloofness among the residents. The villages in Asia are still somewhat close knit but very unlike the villages in Africa.

Sure there are villages in India , Pakistan or Bangladesh where the village council rules and settles petty matters but they are also bound by their tribal and cultural and religious rules so it is not unheard of a village council ordering death by stoning of a person who is guilty of blasphemy or some such offence in Pakistan. They ordered a young rape victim in a village in North India to parade naked because she dared to accuse their sons of rape. Here their prejudices and caste based bias kick in not to mention their tribal customs and fanaticism.

So it is not the same as in Africa where the village chief is chosen by the villagers based on his character and moral values. The often unfair judgments of village councils give impunity to the wrong doers like I mentioned in my previous blog called The prejudice of caste so it may be worth reading in this context.

In Haiti there still is a kind of social justice that prevails where people go to the houngans or the voodoo priests who may punish a wrong doer in a certain way. We have all heard how they turn a person into a zombie if he is found guilty of a terrible crime. They make a poison called tetradotoxin from the puffer fish and administer it somehow so the fellow appears dead for a few days but gets up in a zombie like state.

In other countries they have tribal councils, village councils and village chiefs for social justice where the court system fails them.

So the criminality at first starts in a small way like stealing or selling drugs and goes up from there. Such people come from families where they get no support and where the parents cannot afford to give them a model home and care they need. But just being poor is not the reason to turn to criminality as I have mentioned earlier. In African villages they have a communal support system and people look out for each other so being poor there does not mean they all become criminals. Their societies are based on certain ethical standards and moral values that are influenced by their religion or tribal customs.

It breaks down when people move to cities and live in ghettos so we see the rise of criminality more in cities and less in rural areas.

Punishment :

The court system found in many countries deals with the punishment part and can be a very lengthy and costly process for the defendants who may be too poor to hire good lawyers to plead their case and often get punished with very long jail sentences for minor crimes. Often we see the justice system in some countries favoring the whites and punish the blacks for the same crime. In the USA some 2 million people languish in jails at a great cost to the taxpayer and more jails are being built to accommodate more felons every year while in other countries people who commit a minor offense are given some community work to do and get into a drug rehab center if the offense is drug related.

It is proven that rehabilitation works better than incarceration because a person who has made a mistake in a fit of rage gets a second chance and learns from his mistake. Jails often make people hardened criminals who cause riots and make mayhem if they are incarcerated long enough.

In other countries, the drug pushers and users are killed by the police or vigilante groups that work outside the law but drug users and pushers can be successfully rehabilitated in a properly equipped detox centers. Poor countries do not have such facilities or not enough to accommodate all who need them so the police go on a killing spree.

To fight crime the police need training, proper equipment, moral and ethical standards, respect for the defendant’s rights, respect for the justice system and unbiased look at the violators but police people in many countries are corrupt, poorly trained and come from a caste based system like in India where they feel superior to lower caste people and treat them unfairly.

So once again I come back to the root cause of criminality. It is not poverty as such but the dissolution of basic family values, loss of moral and ethical values that the destitute families cannot provide, lack of decent home, lack of affordable education system and a ghetto living that promotes criminal behavior in a young person who at first joins the gangs to feel empowered and goes downhill from there.

I hope that as countries grow in their economic health, they can raise the living standards of the very poor and marginalized people in their society like they are doing in China. They have uplifted no less than 450 million people out of poverty and have provided them with decent housing and jobs. It does not mean that they have solved all their problems but they have taken a significant step in the right direction.

The ban of guns in private hands also plays a significant role in diminishing crimes as it has been in Australia and India so their methods can be emulated.

I do not suggest that the Haitian houngans start opening up chapters in many countries to fight crime but every country can take meaningful steps like China to reduce poverty and criminality with quick and strong punishment for the wrong doers. Until then we are all at the mercy of bad people.

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