Encouraged by the impact of the Delhi Police’s ‘Operation Nirbheek’ within six months since its launch, the Union Government is preparing for a nationwide launch of the programme.
The overwhelmingly large number of children — mainly girls — the Delhi Police have reached out to, has left the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development wanting the ‘Operation’ be conducted in each and every school in this country.
Speaking to The Hindu , Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi said the initiative caught her attention due to the fact that the police themselves were meeting girl students at government and private schools in Delhi.
“The police have been doing well to install complaints boxes in schools and promising confidentiality to the children,” said Ms. Gandhi.
“We are working on a very effective film that will be shown to every child to educate them about ‘good touch and bad touch’. Armed with the video, the police across the country will be instructed to periodically visit all schools in their area,” the Minister added.
The initiative has also caught the attention of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP), a unit under the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency. The CEOP has been interacting with some of the top Delhi Police officers to share their expertise in order to strengthen the ‘Operation’.
Conceived by Deputy Commissioner of Police (North-East Delhi) Veenu Bansal, the initiative was first launched in his district in the first week of August last year. Delhi Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi came out with a standing order two months later asking other districts to follow suit.
Till December, the police have interacted with more than five lakh children in their schools and installed complaint boxes in more than 1,000 schools. A dozen FIRs have been registered based on shocking revelations of sexual abuse by girls, made either in person or through the complaint boxes.
Of these, nine FIRs were registered in the northeast district alone, from where the operation kicked off. Joint Commissioner of Police (Eastern Range) Sanjay Beniwal, who has offered Mr. Bansal all possible support in the initiative, said his priority was to ensure that children are taught about “bad touch” before they learn French or German in school.
Having interacted with over 2.8 lakh children already, the northeast district police have received around 200 written complaints and over 600 verbal complaints regarding sexual abuse.
“Most of these cases would never reach us had it not been for Operation Nirbheek, in which our police personnel take their time to create a situation of trust, after which the children confide in us,” Mr. Bansal told The Hindu .
The police deal at a personal level with the complaints received about stalking, staring and eve-teasing. However, in some cases they are compelled to register an FIR. The perpetrators most often are found to be the victims’ fathers, brothers or relatives, all who have been indulging in sexual abuse for months and even years in some cases.
The impact of the initiative has been greater than the police had expected.
“For the past few weeks, we have been receiving requests from madrasas to conduct the programme at their institutions,” said a senior officer.