West Bengal continues to have the long drawn process for rape victims seeking any help or recourse. Speaking to Hidden Pockets Collective about the process presently followed with rape victims, Dr. P.S.Chakravorthy, Head of the Department of Gynaecology at the IPGMER & SSKM hospital, Kolkata says, “The victims have to first report to the police. Then they visit the gynaecology department here, after which the forensic department is involved in the process. Then if required, the victim is sent to the psychiatric ward for counselling.”
Typically, any One-Stop Crisis Centre for rape victims is supposed to include medical, legal-aid, psycho-social counselling, shelter, police assistance, video conferencing facility to facilitate police and court proceedings. Having mapped One-Stop Crisis Centre for rape victims in several other states including Jaipur and Kochi, Hidden Pockets Collective went looking for one in the state of West Bengal. It appears that West Bengal has no One-Stop Crisis Centre (OSCC) for rape victims. There seems to be no information available on any centre that has been set up in West Bengal either.
Nation-wide plan for One-Stop Crisis Centres (OSCC)
According to the implementation guidelines released by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in April 2015, one OSCC was to be set up in every State and Union Territory during the first phase. The Scheme of One Stop Centre was approved for 36 locations, one per each state of Union territory for implementation from April 1, 2015. The Department of Women and Child Development were required to send its proposal for a centre to the Ministry of Women and Child Development and was to be approved by the Proposal Approving Body (PAB). According to the Revised One Stop Centre Scheme report from May 2016, ‘during the year 2015-16, proposals of 33 States/UTs had been sanctioned for setting up One Stop Centre. Out of these 33, 15 Centres were become operational by 30th May, 2016.’ The scheme has also been revised to include 150 OSCCs in phase two in addition to the 36 centres from phase one. The additional centres have been distributed amongst the different states including NCT of Delhi taking into account the number of registered crime, number of female population and the Child Sex Ration in the respective state.
West Bengal not to be seen?
Interestingly, out of the 36 from phase one, only 14 sanction orders have been listed on Ministry of Women and Child Development’s website, all for the year 2015-16. West Bengal is not to be found neither on the sanctioned list or in the list of states mentioned in the minutes of any of the PAB meetings conducted so far. It is not clear when the website of Ministry of Women and Child Development was last updated. It is also not clear if the West Bengal government is one among the 33 states whose proposal was sanctioned by the Ministry. If it is one of the 33 states, According to the Revised One Stop Centre Scheme report, 10 additional centres have been allotted for West Bengal in phase two.
Historically, how has West Bengal reacted to OSC centre – 2016 & 17?
- In October 2015, Maromi met the Joint Secretary, Department of Women and Child Development of West Bengal to know the status of the OSC in the state. a place has been suggested in North 24 Barashat, Noth 24 Parganas, within the complex of DM bungalow.
- In March 2016, Maromi sent a letter to the Chief Minister’s office to understand the status of OSC in West Bengal.
- In November 2016, Maromi representatives met Dr. Shashi Panja to invite her for a seminar. During the meeting, speaking about the OSC, the minister said regarding the setting up of the OSC during which the minister mentioned that the government is not thinking about it at the moment.
- The Ei Shamoy article on 26, November 2016 confirmed the statement expressed by the minister.
- The state has rejected the Centre’s proposal for stepping up of the OSC. Shashi Panja says that we have already been doing this job so there is no need to take money from the Central government and set up a separate centre.
Where do women access services if both state government and central government refuse to take any responsibility?