WITH ITS contractual staff being denied salary for two months now, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) is set to shut its 181 women helpline, rape crisis cell, mobile helpline among other programmes. In an official statement released on Friday, DCW chairperson Swati Maliwal questioned the appointment of the new member secretary Alka Diwan and alleged that the latter “refused to release two months’ salary to the contractual staff” thereby making them “pay the price of working on Saturdays and overtime”.
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The statement claimed that the workload of DCW had increased exponentially as it “dealt with 11,696 complaints and handled 2.16 lakh calls through its 181 women’s helpline in the past six months. Moreover, the statement added, 5,733 cases have been dealt by the rape crisis cell lawyers in courts since the expansion of the cell, 1,869 sexual assault cases were dealt by crisis intervention centre counsellors and the commission has undertaken over 7,500 visits since its revamp.
“The commission has also given over 55 recommendations to the government in the past year. The previous chairperson of the commission dealt with only one case in eight years… The present commission, after its reconstitution in 2015, sent several representations to the Delhi government to sanction the recruitment of a requisite number of staff in light of the increasing workload. However, till date the proposals are pending with the government. The commission, therefore, made short-term appointments as a stop-gap measure. It even ensured that all staffers even work on Saturdays to aid the distressed women of Delhi,” the statement read.
It also said that the staff mostly comprised acid attack survivors, dowry harassment survivors and orphans from Nari Niketan. “Non-payment of salaries to the staff would result in stopping of programmes as the staff come from vulnerable backgrounds and cannot afford to work for long without salaries,” the statement added.
The commission pointed out that 52 of the staff whose salaries have been withheld earn less than Rs 25,000. Only 10 staff member earn more than Rs. 35,000.
“Diwan’s appointment to the DCW is absolutely illegal as there has been no notification from the government. She has simply been appointed through an office order. She is also a serving government officer presently posted as the VAT Commissioner. This is in violation of the DCW Act…,” the statement alleged. Diwan, meanwhile, has not responded to repeated texts and phone calls.