Even as the spike in crimes against women raises a clamour, the National Commission for Women — the only national-level authority with the mandate to protect the rights of women across the country — is grossly overburdened.
In place of the mandated chairperson and five members, there is a recently-appointed acting chairperson and just a sole member. "That the NCW is overburdened is an understatement. There are enquires to conduct, increasing piles of cases. It is proving very difficult to handle the workload," said a commission source.
Yasmeen Abrar, is the recently-appointed acting chairperson who took over from Girija Vyas on April 8, while Winsuk Syiem is the single member of the body.
The crucial post of joint secretary and law officer also lies vacant and has been so for quite some time.
"Appointment of NCW members is a political decision, while appointment of bureaucrats is an administrative one. Both have to be taken up by the ministry of women and child development. It is not only a political failure but a bureaucratic one as well," said a source familiar with the development.
A parliamentary standing committee, in the last session, had strongly recommended an increase in the number of staff in view of increasing complaints.
On being contacted, Abrar said, "It is the government's responsibility to fill in the vacancies. We do not have a role here." Complaints are lodged in the NCW under 33 heads, including dowry death, harassment, police inaction, rape, acid attack and problems related to NRI marriages. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 63,601 cases of rape and 1,17,858 cases of molestation were registered from across the country from 2007 to 2009.
In 2010, NCW got 15,700 complaints of crimes against women, up from 14,233 in 2009. Uttar Pradesh tops the list of states from where the maximum numbers of complaints (27,435) have been received by the NCW since its inception, followed by Delhi (7,452).
In the most recent incident of violence against women, 23-year-old Arunima Sinha — a national-level sportsperson — was thrown off a moving train by criminals in Bareilly.