By R Rochin Chandra
It’s one of the dreams that most people have secretly had at one time or another: of being a crime-stopper, of using intuition and knowledge to crack the clue, and follow the threads to the end of the mystery. But for those with a more than a passing fancy for crime and justice, criminology is so much more than merely a detective school.
It opens up a vast range of opportunities that are only slowly being recognised in India. The importance of Criminology and Criminal Justice is only growing in India.
What does a criminologist do?
A criminologist aims to help society develop a better understanding of what makes people commit crimes, how to better protect against it, how to improve rehabilitation of offenders, and how to help victims of crimes. In essence, he or she works to build a society less prone to or susceptible to crimes by finding reasonable and workable proposals to prevent and control crime.
How do people see Criminology and victimology in India?
Criminology, as an academic discipline, has gained some prominence in recent years. A section of students are becoming more adventurous about their career choices. And an increasing number of (provocative) television shows like “Crime Patrol”, “Gumraah”, “Dexter” and “Sherlock Holmes”, have also encouraged an influx of students who want to study criminal behaviour and human science.
The dearth of awareness among people about Criminology in India is a matter of some concern. But, what is more problematic is the gap that has emerged between young people’s expectations (as cultivated by social norms, parents) and the realities of labour market, which, discourage them from courses in the arts and humanities. The steady drift of students towards engineering and medicine has very much evolved as a culture. In the face of consistent pressure, candidates keen to pursue a career along off-beat tracks like Criminology, are often left with no option but to bury this idea.
As far as victimology is concerned, few people outside of academicians, human rights activists and criminal justice professionals have more than a vague idea of the subject. But we need to understand that India, as a country, has not quite grasped the idea fully of responding to the needs of victims. It will therefore be a long wait before victimology finds firm roots in mainstream education. Although, some institutions in India do offer courses on this subject, it is still in a nascent stage and requires major impetus.
Is Criminology gaining importance in India?
Yes, it is. A few institutions have reached an understanding with their respective state governments; so that, students with a Master’s degree in Criminology will be preferred for recruitment to the police and to prisons. A special reservation has been made in this regard. Karnataka and Gujarat are at the forefront of such efforts.
The South Asian Society of Criminology and Victimology (SASCV), the Indian Society of Criminology (ISC) and the Indian Society of Victimology (ISV), are the forerunners, advancing the field with successful conferences and other events. The growth of Criminology over the last decade has been so rapid that the University Grants Commission has recognized it as a subject for qualification for the Junior Research Fellowship and the National Eligibility Test.
At present, there are more than seven departments which offer full time Master’s degrees and PhD programmes in Criminology. But there is a need to lobby the government and NGOs, to set up more departments of Criminology across India and provide adequate job opportunities to Criminology graduates
What are the possibilities open to a criminologist in India?
Criminology is an interdisciplinary field, as it looks into the context of sociology, economics, psychology, law, social work, and political science among others to understand crime and criminal behaviour. Besides examining behaviour, institutions and systems to deal with criminal offenders through a multidisciplinary lens, it also affords students a very fine insight on the functioning of the society as a whole. Therefore, by gaining a composite knowledge of multiple fields and disciplines related to Criminology, students can contribute much to the development of such fields.
In India, a Master’s program in Criminology and Criminal Justice generally trains students for a variety of professions such as Private Investigation, Security Management, Law, Crime Prevention, Bank Fraud Management, Counselling and Guidance, Investigative Journalism, Criminal Psychology, Child Protection Services and so on. So, there are possibilities galore but the job market still needs to grow as many are not aware of the availability of such qualified professionals emerging from the Criminology background.
The importance of undertaking social sciences research has gained a premium in recent times. Many governmental, non-governmental and international human rights organizations in India – like National Human Rights Commission, BPRD, Common Wealth Human Rights Initiative, Amnesty International, International Justice Mission – are recruiting criminologists as Research Consultants or Officers after the completion of Masters, MPhil and Doctorate programmes in Criminology.
Further, UN organisations like Unicef, UNDP, ILO, & UN Women (India), provide a unique opportunity for Criminology graduates in the capacities of policy analysts, child protection officers, emergency preparedness and response officers, program co-ordinators and so on.
As Criminology exposes the students to topics like police administration and penology, this knowledge can also be translated in policing and prisons management. One can always write the UPSC, apply for state police services (at any level), or to agencies like the Intelligence Bureau, the Central Bureau of Investigation and so on.
Besides, Criminology can yield great results for enthusiasts who aspire to pursue a career in criminal justice policies and crime prevention strategies. NGOs may also hire criminologists for advocacy building and victim counselling.
What are the challenges in pursuing a career in Criminology?
There are two major challenges in pursuing a full-fledged career in Criminology. First, individuals from other substantive social sciences disciplines (who claim ownership of Criminology) normally show resistance to acknowledging and valuing Criminology as a profession. Second, since criminologists study law, psychology, sociology, political science, human rights, and so on in small proportions, and given that the typical Master’s program is so crime-focused, it may often leave students in a spot of bother after their post-graduate degree.
Therefore, it is strongly recommended that students also earn some extra credentials such as a PG diploma in human rights law, child rights law, or social work, or online certification in subjects like anti-money laundering, cyber forensics, GPS and so on.
What needs to be done to enhance the scope of employment in Criminology?
The scope of employment can be significantly improved by offering greater numbers of internships to students in accordance with their areas of interest. Ideally, such hands-on-training offers them a unique opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge to real-time problems. Apart from operating at the application level, student can also hone their writing, analytical, research and management skills.
What skills does a successful career in Criminology require?
To gain elevation in this discipline, one should have good writing, speaking and research skills besides having a knack for critically analysing social issues. In addition, one should constantly feed one’s mind with current instances of crime, victimisation and justice. A broad awareness of latest issues, allows one to better understand and examine the dynamics of a given problem from the lens of criminological and victimological theories. Soft skills can also be an asset.
(R Rochin Chandra is presently working as Visiting Policy Analyst for Rajasthan Prisons Department, at the Jail Training Institute, Ajmer. He received his Master’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice Science from Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, Tirunelveli. At the PG level, he was recognised as a ‘Young Change Maker’ in India. He also serves in the International Peer Review Committee of the International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences and the International Journal of Cyber Criminology.)