Written by Pallavi Singhal
If you ever visit the district hospital of Sector 6, Panchkula, you will notice posters of ‘Sukoon’ pasted everywhere on the walls. Housed in the hospital building, ‘Sukoon’ is a one-stop crisis centre for the female victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, acid attack and suicide attempts. The project was conceived in April 2014 after the reports of Nirbhaya gangrape case in New Delhi came in 2012.
Dr Sunil Gambhir, a forensic expert and the president of the Sukoon programme, said, “We were shocked (after the news came about Delhi gangrape case) and knew that something had to be done. The kind of sensitivity that had developed at the time motivated us and we didn’t just build a project but made a whole centre.”
‘Sukoon’ follows a step-by-step process wherein the person is first counselled, then treated after which the option for police complaints and legal aid is provided. All this is done in the centre itself. A strict code towards maintaining the secrecy of the victim is followed wherein such information is only shared between the two social workers who are employed there, Monica Ranga (33) and Parjeet Kaur (31), and the women police officials assigned to the case.
‘Sukoon’ remains open round the clock. It has assigned one room to such victims upto three days where they are given food and shelter. “ We do not abandon our patients even after they leave the centre. We follow up with them and also provide guidance whenever needed,” says Monica Ranga.
‘Sukoon’ has provided support to atleast 1320 people since its inception. In its first year, the centre saw 100 cases. The number gradually increased and 405 cases were registered in the last financial year. Since then, 136 more cases have been registered. The last two cases came in on July 9.
The centre also has to take care of the changing laws. The latest law says that when treating a child under the age of 12, the guardian’s agreement is required whereas while treating a patient between 12-18 the consent of the patient is required at every step. When treating a mentally challenged person of any age, the approval of a guardian is required.
‘Sukoon’ which was first made near the OPD was shifted to the labour room within four months to give it the kind of attention it required. Monica and Parjeet joined in August, 2014. They remain in constant touch with the women police cell and the district court.
Monica recollects one case about an 11-year-old girl which she says she would never forget. The girl was sexually assaulted but the police was reluctant to file a complaint. However, the girl was admitted to ‘Sukoon’ for three days and was counselled. “She was given free legal aid, after which she got an FIR registered. the case went to trial and she won. She even got a compensation of Rs 1.5 lakh,” Monica says adding that the girl still comes to visit them.
Dr Sangeeta Singhal, head of the Gynae department says that the maximum cases that come in involve either sexual assault or domestic violence. “We never return any woman that comes in here seeking help. The police itself takes care of transferring such cases to the district the woman hails from,” she says.
The centre also has a mandatory provision for filing online Medical Reports (MLRs) where in once the report is filed, the data is frozen. Nobody can access the data except the two handling the centre. Even they cannot make any changes to the data once it is frozen. It is to be noted that this is the only centre in the country that has this option.
Dr. Yogesh Sharma, CMO, Civil Hospital, Panchkula says that this is their pilot project which was started and conceptualised by the doctors of the hospital itself. This was the first ‘Sukoon’ centre of Haryana after which seven more centre were built in Ambala, Yamuna Nagar, Panipat, Jind, Rewari, Gurgaon and Faridabad.
Dr Sunil Gambhir says that ‘Sukoon’ has become a model centre now. “People from Mumbai and Delhi come here to learn about the project,” he says. The centre had no fund to operate when it started and the doctors at the district hospital were working in shifts in the first four months.