Other States

Is ‘compromise’ the route that one stop centres should choose?

Staff of ‘One Stop Centre’ at Gurugram in Haryana and (left) administrator of the Ghaziabad centre interacting with women police and staff.   | Photo Credit: Shanker Chakravarty

“Daughters-in-law in our village are killed overnight by the husband’s families and no one ever finds out anything,” a woman tells a counsellor at Ajmer’s One Stop Centre (OSC) appealing for her safety and an assurance of financial assistance from her husband she wants to leave. She is told instead to worry about her children’s upcoming annual exams.

OSC, or Sakhi centre, is a scheme sponsored fully by the Central government under the Nirbhaya fund set up for safety of women after the gang rape of a paramedical student in December 2012 in New Delhi.

The scheme envisages an OSC for medical, legal, psychological and police help for victims of gender-based abuse such as sexual assault or domestic violence.

234 centres

So far, 234 OSCs have been set up and 485 more are in the pipeline to cover all 719 districts in the country. According to government data shared before Parliament, more than 1,90,000 women across the country have accessed these centres.

The Hindu visited a centre each in some of the most unsafe districts of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana for a status-check.

According to National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data for 2015, Ajmer ranked third among all districts in Rajasthan in terms of crimes against women and recorded 1,303 such cases. Of these 792 or 60% of crimes pertained to cruelty by husband or his family.

“When a victim of domestic violence comes here, she is asked what relief she wants. If she wants a compromise, the husband is called and both of them are counselled. After this, she is asked to sign on an agreement letter and is sent back to her home and a follow-up is conducted. If a rape victim comes to the centre , it is first ascertained whether she is speaking the truth. First the centre in-charge speaks to her and then a counsellor cross-examines her. It is easy to spot a lie when a woman is asked to give a statement twice,” says Durga Mahij, the in-charge of Ajmer’s Sakhi centre and a lawyer with 10 years of experience.

“I don’t want a compromise. There is a threat to my life and I need safety and maintenance,” the 26-year-old mother of three tells The Hindu at the dimly-lit make-shift centre. She has dragged her husband and brother-in-law here after both men beat her up. Following her protests, the matter is escalated and the centre in-charge agrees to treat her case as one of domestic violence.

Between October 2017 and December 2018, the centre has seen a total of 472 cases. Nearly 84% of these are cases of domestic violence and “compromise” is considered the most important way of resolving matters between spouses.

A register on follow-up of cases records one-line remarks and the most common among them is, “everything is fine.”

Gurugram Facility

Our next stop is Gurugram, the district in Haryana with the highest cases of crimes against women at 959, according to NCRB 2015. This facility has seen 226 cases between January and November 2018. When we visited the OSC it was locked and the two helpers, the only staff appointed apart from guards and a computer operator so far, were out on personal errands.

The Gurugram facility, situated two kilometres from the Civil Hospital, has a separate building and furniture, including three beds for victims.

A separate Sukoon centre being run at the hospital under the State government’s scheme lacks all these, but has a round-the-clock counsellor and has seen a higher number of cases at 280 in the last one year.

Haryana could learn a lesson from its neighbour Uttar Pradesh. The latter has clubbed its own Asha Jyoti programme with the Central government’s Sakhi centre and called it “Aapki Sakhi-Asha Jyoti Kendra.”

“We have been able to use our ground presence through Asha Jyoti centres and clubbed it with the financial support from the Central government for Sakhi centre,” said B.S. Niranjan, Deputy Director, Uttar Pradesh government.

High crime rate

In Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad, the district with the second highest crimes against women at 1,330, the OSC is located at MMG District Hospital. It has 15 full-time staff members at its three-room facility and has seen 6,306 cases since March 2017.

The huge number of cases registered at the centre is due to the State being able to take services to the doorstep of women in distress, primarily by linking its 23 OSCs with the Women Helpline 181 as well as by providing each facility with a rescue van.

Once a woman dials 181, a rescue van from the closest centre is despatched along with a field worker and a woman police constable to escort the victim. In fact, out of the total 50 cases of domestic violence registered at the Ghaziabad facility in December, 27 were those who had first called the helpline.

Daily round

“I ensure that our van goes out daily for a round – whether it is to help a woman in distress or for a follow-up of a case or to bring a reluctant husband to the centre, which has its own impact and it instils fear among husbands and their families as well as their neighbours,” says the administrator of the centre who doesn’t wants to be named.

A separate file is maintained for every victim and a case is closed only after follow-ups are carried out over a period of six months.

Awareness campaigns, as many as 16 conducted by the centre in-charge in December alone, mean neighbours are able to sound an alert if there is a child marriage being conducted in their village or if a woman is being married without her consent.

“We even receive complaints if a husband refuses to re-fill a gas cylinder,” says the in-charge laughingly, and adds, “We try to address all complaints, as long as it is from a woman.”

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 7:16:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/is-compromise-the-route-that-one-stop-centres-should-choose/article25986995.ece

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