Youngsters in our country are the future pillar of India. But this story is different. Seventeen-year-old Prabhu (name changed) was the envy of all the boys in his neighbourhood a couple of months ago, as he zipped around Kolathur on a brand new bike. A few days after he bought it, however, the police came knocking and took the school dropout away.
An investigation revealed that Prabhu had been given the bike for being part of a gang that hacked a driver to death in Anna Nagar. It was his first offence, and the teenager is in prison.
“Going by media reports there is an increase in the number of educated thieves in the 18 to 25 age group,” says Dr M Srinivasan, associate professor, department of criminology, University of Madras. He referred to cases of engineering and MBA graduates being involved in thefts and murders for gain.
A police officer who agrees with this analysis cites the case of a 17-year-old volleyball player who joined a 10-member gang and killed rowdy Chennakesavalu and his lawyer Bhagat Singh near the court complex two years ago. “I was stunned to see him. He had a bright future but had been led to believe that crime was a quick way to make money,” he says.
Though these teens were involved in murder, most young offenders indulge in chain snatching, stealing bikes and cash, and petty theft. “Most crimes by youth are petty,” says S Kannayiram, former field officer of the social defence department. He says these crimes are motivated by the desire for easy money. “There are some genuine cases of children and young people in utter poverty but during some sessions with young people, I realised how status conscious young people have become,” he says.
Early this year, two 10-year-old boys were caught stealing cell phones at Express Avenue mall. The boys led the police to their handlers — two 18-year-olds from Jharkhand. The gang visited the city regularly to steal phones at the mall. Police say older criminals often groom those under the age of 18 as thieves as they will only get a maximum punishment of three years under the juvenile justice act. “They do what they are told without a real idea of what is right and wrong, but they soon get used to crime,” he said.
The increase in repeat offenders among the youth is worrying, says Kannayiram. “They say police foist cases on them, but our system also makes it hard for young people to leave a life of crime,” he says.
Young, first-time offenders end up in the same prison as notorious criminals, who mould them. They leave prison, and re-enter a life of crime. Senior lawyer V Kannadasan said, “First-time offenders should not be allowed to mingle with notorious criminals.”
But it is the duty of our parents; if their children brought any costly things to their house they must enquire the source of the costly Bike or any jewels or any other valuables. They must also watch their wards movement and must know the antecedents of their friends. If parents take little effort in the welfare of their children, then their children will bring fame to their house and country.