Usha Satre (name changed) of Pune lost her husband,children and parents-in-law in a road accident in November 2009.
Forced by distant in-laws to marry her brother-in-law for a share in the family property,the orphan approached the women commission,only to realise it was an office without members.
After many visits to the commission over the next three years,Satre got her share of Rs 20 lakh from her in-laws.
Maharashtra State Commission for Women (MCW),facing staff crunch and government neglect for the past four years,has a pendency of 1,829 cases. Since August 2009,it has neither had a chairperson nor a member.
Appointments to the commission do not seem to be a priority for the Congress-NCP government that returned to power in October 2009.
With the backlog of cases increasing and no political consensus on the chairperson or members,the women and child welfare ministry appointed its principal secretary Ujwal Uke acting chairman in February this year.
While hearings are being conducted after the appointment,only about 40 cases have been disposed of so far.
Ideally,the chairman should attend all hearings but Uke has attended only three since he took charge on February 28. Eight hearings were conducted in the presence of member-secretary Shomita Biswas.
Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar,member of National Commission for Women and a former chairperson of MCW,said in the current set-up it was impossible for NGOs and common people to interact with the commission.
Members make a commission approachable. The current constitution is too bureaucratic. It is unfortunate a progressive state like Maharashtra is not serious about such an important body, she said.
The 4,000-square-foot MCW office in the MHADA building in Bandra (east) has two counselling and a conference room,where hearings are held. It has a staff strength of 35.
We not only need more people but also a branch office in every district. Most cases come to us from areas near Mumbai,Thane and Pune. In other districts,women go to the protection officer at the taluka level who is usually overburderned with work, Biswas said.
She said she did not even have a statistician in her office.
Half the cases that come to the commission are of domestic violence.