Lack of funds, infrastructure and training in one-stop crisis centres: Women panel report

Tabassum Barnagarwala
Lack of funds, infrastructure and training in one-stop crisis centres: Women panel report

Only two centres — in Alibaug and Satara — functioned as per the guidelines of the Union Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry. (Representational Image)

A study conducted by the Maharashtra State Commission for Women on one-stop crisis centres that were set up to provide aid for women facing sexual and domestic abuse has found lacunae in the way they function. Of the 11 centres that were studied, nine do not function for 24 hours, nine had no trained staff, lack of infrastructure was found in multiple centres, nine centres had no implementing agency or NGO to monitor them and issues of delayed funds from state government were persistent.

Only two centres — in Alibaug and Satara — functioned as per the guidelines of the Union Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry with an NGO monitoring the centre, providing shelter for victims and trained staff to look after them, the report found. A year after the study was conducted, the report and its recommendations have now been submitted to WCD Minister Smriti Irani, state WCD Minister Yashomati Thakur, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

One-point crisis centres were proposed following the 2012 Delhi gangrape case to provide women facing sexual and domestic abuse a single point of contact for medical, legal, social, and psychological aid. Under the scheme, each centre must have five rooms and an administrator residing there, case worker, police facilitation officer, legal aid, para-medical staff, counsellor, multi purpose worker and security guard.

The study was conducted in January and February 2019 by a five-member committee headed by Director of Women Studies Centre, India Law Society’s (ILS), Law College in Pune, across Akola, Alibaug, Amravati, Nanded, Nashik, Aurangabad, Pune, Ahmednagar, Satara and Nagpur. “None of the centres were operating on the lines they were envisaged except in Alibaug and Satara,” said Director Dr Jaya Sagade.

The worst centre was found in Pune, but Sagade claims an NGO has since been appointed to run the centre, which has improved its functioning. “We do not know if remaining centres have improved or further deteriorated in a year,” she said.

In total, 10 centres had catered to over 600 victims since 2017. The one in Nagpur recorded 3,500 cases as police’s Bharosa cell was running the centre and directing all domestic violence cases to it.

The report found the WCD ministry had given additional charge to existing officers — protection officers under Domestic Violence Act, 2005, and teachers under Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 — to work as counsellors without training them. “Except Alibaug, no other centre functioned for 24 hours as mandated in guidelines,” the report observed.

Nine of the 11 centres had no shelter facility for victims when the study was conducted in 2019. “Helpline for women was not integrated with the centres,” a member of the study said. The Union ministry guidelines have mandated all women and children helplines to be integrated with the centre.

While the report found police deputed at one-stop crisis centres were not trained, it also raised serious concerns over untrained counsellors who were not skilled in handling domestic violence and rape victims.

Vijaya Rahatkar, chairperson of women’s commission, said the report was submitted to state and Union ministry with recommendations to improve infrastructure, train staff, appoint NGOs for each, link them with helplines and facilitate immediate release of grants.

At KEM Hospital, where a centre began a month ago, counselling and infrastructure was funded by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. “Training for other staff will be organised on January 17,” said Dr Harish Pathak, head of forensic department.

Several officers at these centres said they were facing delay in release of funds by the state government. In Satara, funds were not provided for eight months to the NGO at the time of study. Idzes Kundan, secretary, WCD, was not available for comment despite multiple calls and message.