It’s been two decades and countless wake-up calls, but there is still no commission for women in Chandigarh. The National Commission for Women (NCW) came into being with an act of the central government in 1992, and all states and union territories were asked to constitute similar statutory panels.
The Chandigarh administration’s failure to pay heed to the law has now invited the wrath of union minister for women and child development Krishna Tirath, who has asked the administration to constitute the panel “at the earliest” for promotion and protection of women rights. In a letter to the UT administration, Tirath has asked for initiating and completing the process of creation of the commission urgently.
The attitude of the UT administration on this issue can be gauged from the fact that it has failed to act despite getting instructions for setting up the commission for women from the central government in the past too. The administration initially evaded its duty on the grounds that the women in Chandigarh enjoyed better status as compared to other states. Punjab constituted its commission in 2001.
After pressure was exerted by various social bodies, the administration made an attempt to set up the commission in 2006, but it ended with the file shuttling from one office to another.
Criticising the administration for its lax approach, Dr Pam Rajput, chairperson, union government’s high-level committee on the status of women, said the delay in setting up of commission in city reflected the lax attitude of the authorities towards women’s rights. “There is a dire need to have an independent body for the redressal of issues related to women,” said Pam Rajput. As per Census 2011, the city has women population of around 5 lakh out of a total of around 11 lakh.
In the absence of a commission, women whose rights have been violated, either at home or workplace, have to run from pillar to post for getting justice.
Ruing the absence of a commission for women in the city, a woman who was allegedly sexually harassed by her senior employed at the UT employment exchange said: “I was sexually harassed by my senior and the allegation was found true by the sexual harassment committee. The accused was also arrested by the police, and was later released on bail.”
She further alleged that the department was shielding the accused and had refused to take action against him. “Had there been a commission for women, I would have got justice by now,” she said. She is to appear before the UT administrator on Monday.
When contacted, director, social welfare department, Rajesh Jogpal said they had put up the file for setting up the commission before the senior officials, and claimed that the commission would be set up at the earliest.
FUNCTIONS OF WOMEN COMMISSION
*Investigate and examine all matters relating to safeguards provided for women under the Constitution
*To look into non-compliance of policy decisions and guidelines aimed at ensuring welfare and providing relief to the women
*To look into complaints and take suo moto notice of matters relating to deprivation of women’s rights and non-implementation of laws
*To participate and advise on the planning process of socio-economic development of women
*To inspect jails, remand homes etc. where women are kept under custody
UNDERLINING THE NEED
A survey conducted by Hindustan Times and the Institute for Development and Communication (IDC) in October last found that 95% women in Chandigarh had experienced sexual harassment. Even the recent case of alleged rape of a 17-year-old girl from Khuda Lahora by five UT cops underlined the need for a dedicated panel for women welfare, as the case was marked by gross mishandling during the registration and initial probe.