Criminality and Role Models


Even as news outside the country, especially in certain places, for instance in Israel and Gaza, is nothing but depressing, we also have our fair share of the bad news. Yesterday brought us news about the several cases of bomb scare registered in several schools, both public and private. The authorities will surely do what is required to determine whether that is the doing of pranksters or whether it should become a matter of concern for the country.

What is a matter of continuing concern however is the occurrence of crimes – some petty, others serious – that are reported regularly. Every week is bringing its lot of unacceptable social behaviour unheard of a few decades back. The cases of spouses, concubines or girlfriends stabbed or seriously injured by those usually close to them have become more frequent. Theft is also becoming more frequent. In certain cases, not only is there larceny, but the victim of theft gets attacked, is often badly hurt, or even killed in the process. Even taxi drivers and bus conductors are aware of the new level of risks attendant to their occupations.

Cases of theft by motorbike riders, such as snatching of chains worn by women, which were heard of quite frequently a few years back, appear to have diminished, presumably due to greater police and community vigilance in certain areas. Incidents of misbehaviour by schoolchildren towards each other or in some cases towards teachers also appear to be on the decline, but they do happen from time to time. However, besides drugs related offences, there are more crimes being committed under the influence of synthetic drugs not only in the urban areas but also in our villages – something unheard of in the past. Only this week, another piece of bad news relates to the availability of a new drug, apparently more potent that heroin and which would have caused several cases of overdose. This has become a matter of serious concern for NGOs engaged in the fight against drug abuse.

Multiple crimes may be linked to specific offenders, but it appears we have as yet not undertaken a thorough study of the profiles of those who commit the different types of crimes that are taking place in recent years. One assumption is that many of the offenders come from families which have lost a sense of cohesion. But that is not always the case, and a proper study will inform us about the extent of the problem and how to address it. We have four public universities and yet the authorities seem loathe to call any of them to conduct a thorough sociological investigation that may lay the basis for informed policy actions or for fine-tuning the actions of meritorious NGOs. 

We have also seen several cases of people invested with the duty to ensure respect for the law, indulging in questionable activities while wearing their duty uniforms. If they themselves set such examples, what do their hierarchy or authorities generally expect the rest of the people to do? Politicians have also displayed reckless conduct – whereas as public figures they are expected to act as examplars by demonstrably setting the highest standards in the discharge of their responsibilities towards the country and their constituencies. But instead, they choose to operate within very short-term horizons, maximizing gains while the going is good for them! Many of those operating in the circles of the powerful don’t hesitate to indulge in dubious activities, including business malpractices under the cover of their political shield. Riding the gravy train even through international travels, per diems, luxury limos and other perks of office has become the norm rather than the exception as checks and balances seem inoperative.

No doubt such phenomena are found in other countries and societies too. In the case of Mauritius, however, we have been more on the conservative side, rather keen to protect our gains as we went up the social ladder. Individuals and even families used to benchmark themselves against each other, to the point of emulation so as to be well seen socially. There was a self-correcting attitude within families in pursuit of ’achievement’. Honour and dishonour were important considerations. Unfortunately, this sense of values has been taking a sharp downward dip in recent times.

The responsibility for reversing this state of affairs doesn’t belong to a single individual or entity. It is rather a shared one among all citizens and at all levels of society – individual, family, community, NGOs, religious leaders, and all other organisations that must surely be concerned about what kind of society they want for the future generations. And the youth too, for it is their future that is at stake. However, there is no gainsaying that strong role models among those who are thrust into positions of leadership must be the main drivers of this movement for transformation. Are they prepared to assume this role as they should?

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 17 November 2023

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