One look at the office of the state women and child development department suggests clear that a government body, which should have the best interests of homeless, under privileged children at heart, isn’t, perhaps, best equipped for women and child care as it operates out of an old, dingy building, which earlier housed the sales tax department.
Just entering this office gives one an eerie feeling and even the employees of the department say that their office needs to be refurbished to ensure proper working conditions.
Located just close to the mini-secretariat, it takes quite an effort to reach this building as the approach road remains congested most of the time. Compounding matters further is the fact that campus on which this building stands is also used as a parking space by visitors to numerous government offices and the court complex nearby. There are no guards posted at the gates to check unauthorised parking on the compound.
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“We have repeatedly asked the administration to crack down on unauthorised parking on the approach road and inside the campus. But nothing has been done,” Shakuntala Dhull, chairperson of Child Welfare committee, said.
More unexpected scenes greet visitors to the complex as the glass windows in most of the offices are cracked or broken and spiders could be spotted dotting the walls and ceilings and casting their web. The staffers also claimed the lack of basic hygiene and said the walls and ceilings are dotted with spiders. They said the curtains are unwashed and even the floors are not swept clean.
“The entire building has just one toilet that is used by both men and women staffers. The water tank, at most times, run dry as the motor to pump water into it has been in a state of disrepair over the last eight months, ” Nisha Saini, legal and probation officer, district child protection unit(DCPU), said.
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While the lack of basic amenities sticks out like a sore thumb, inadequate number of workers, too, hampers services. There are not enough people to cater to the needs of the staff. “The biggest problem is the lack of a sweeper to clean the toilets and rooms. We don’t use the toilet here and if at all we have to use one, we go to neighbouring buildings or office premises or even a private hotel. How can one expect women to work here without the provision of a separate toilet for them?” Ritu Rani, district child protection officer, said.
The women and child development department operates out of just four rooms, with the counselling room, DCPU room, CWC’s chairman’s room, staff room and accountant’s room cramped into one. While the CWC officials have asked for a minimum of eight rooms to function as a proper unit, the state government has been dragging its foot and has shown no inclination to pay heed to their demand.
The CWC, on an average, handles cases of 30-40 children every month and 10-15 of them are under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (Pocso Act). Due to the lack of infrastructure and support staff, work at the department is often badly hit. Recently, the district administration made some extra provisions to enable the department to handle the workload. However, given the rising number of cases, a lot more needs to be done to ensure effective delivery of services.
“It often gets difficult to accommodate all the staff in just two rooms. The rise in the number of cases under Pocso Act cases has got us new staffers to deal with them, But the lack of enough rooms, toilets, and even water continues to hamper our services,” Dhull said.
To add to their woes, the staffers haven’t been getting their salaries on time and this has affected their morale and has led to a sense of disaffection among them.
“I haven’t received my salary for the last eight months and it is difficult to get by. Even the data operator and peon have not received their salaries for three months,” Dhull said.
The department also doesn’t have a vehicle of its own and the officials have make official visits in their own cars.
“The government must take urgent measures to resolve the problems being faced by the department and the staffers. The number of cases related to women and children is on the rise. There is a need to augment the infrastructure and boost staff strength. We have been getting some support from the state government, but more needs to be done,” Dhull said.
The CWC is responsible for catering to children’s homes are government-funded institutions that provide temporary shelter, food, and clothing to children in need of care and protection. The CWC also has the power to hold people accountable for such offences as child labour. Those employing children are fined or made to compensate them by cash.