First crisis centre for rape victims may come up next month

By Sreeparna Chakrabarty,

New Delhi : The first of the much-talked about intervention centres for rape victims may finally see the light of the day next month – almost five months after the planned date – with its inauguration nearly a year after the Narendra Modi government came to power.

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The original plan for the centres, envisaged by the women and child development ministry, has been scaled down with these slated to come up in only 36 places to be selected by the states instead of the over 600 initially thought of.

“Plans are afoot to set up the first such centre next month,” a top ministry official told IANS.

Official sources said that the ministry was keen that Prime Minister Modi inaugurates the centre. The National Democratic Alliance government will complete a year in office on May 26. The sources said that the first centre was likely to come up in Haryana as the land had been identified there.

“No final decision has been taken, but there is a strong possibility that the centre will come up in Haryana,” an official said.

Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi had promised the centres immediately after assuming charge last year. The first centre was supposed to come up by last December.

The project has apparently faltered either due to shortage of funds or due to lack of coordination with state governments, which are supposed to provide the land.

The original plan mooted last June envisaged a centre in every district but this was later scaled down to just one centre in each state or union territory.

The project’s budget has also been drastically slashed from Rs.244.48 crore to a mere Rs.18 crore, the official said.

The NDA government had initially suggested 660 ‘Nirbhaya Centres’ – one each in the 640 districts and 20 in the six metros and mini metros.

“Now, there will be just 36, and their locations will be decided by the state governments,” the official said.

The initial proposal envisaged double-storey centres costing Rs 36.98 lakh each. They were to be one-stop centres for assaulted women, easily accessible and offering a “protected shelter, where the victims could be counselled, treated and rehabilitated”.

Officials said that under the modified plan, the centres can now also be set up in government hospitals.

Each centre will have nine employees, including a paramedic who will refer complainants to hospitals. It will also have the services of a lawyer, a counsellor, and a retired police officer not below the rank of inspector to help a complainant file a First Information Report.
The centre will double as a short-stay home for the complainants and, if necessary, refer them to long-term homes. An ambulance would be available to provide assistance to a woman who calls.

The centre may also have a video-conferencing facility with the police and the courts.

A national task force, headed by the ministry’s secretary, will annually evaluate the functioning of the centres.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau’s 2013 annual report, 24,923 rape cases were reported across India in 2012. In 24,470 (98 percent) of the cases, the culprit was someone known to the victim.

(Sreeparna Chakrabarty can be contacted at [email protected])