A hacked tree, an unleashed dog, parking tiffs and home renovation woes — Delhi’s distressed women call the Delhi Commission for Women on its helplines for troubles of all sorts.
While the commission or DCW and its counsellors are trained to offer support to women facing serious crimes such as rape, sexual harassment, abduction and domestic violence, they have been patient even with those reporting other problems, sometimes trivial.
“They call DCW because they feel that they will be heard. A woman called saying that her neighbour had unleashed his dog on her. Another called to say that someone was dumping garbage in front of her house. What action can the DCW take in such cases? But we never turn them down. We either refer them to the appropriate authority or try to resolve their problems,” Barkha Singh Shukla, chairperson of DCW, said.
Between April 2013 and March 2014, the commission received 2,111 complaints. Of these, 106 were categorised under “harassment by neighbour”. In the same period, the commission also received 152 miscellaneous complaints, of which, it settled 59.
“A man called saying that his wife was going into labour and needed to be taken to hospital. He should have ideally called an ambulance but we tried to help him. We politely told him to take his wife to the same hospital where he had taken her for her first delivery,” a helpline coordinator said.
A DCW official said, “A woman called and said a man was dumping garbage outside her house. If the complaint was solely that it would not come under our purview. But she told us that when she scolded the man, he verbally abused her. So we had to step in.”
The DCW runs four helplines — general, rape crisis cell, pre-marital counselling cell and a mobile helpline.
Although they offer help to women facing harassment, several helpline operators said they had been harassed by “abusive callers”. “Some callers use such filthy language that it hurts our ears. Some people get drunk at night and make obscene calls. We complain to police and hand over their numbers,” a helpline coordinator said.
However, not all late-night callers are abusive, officials said. “A medical student, who used to study at night, once called the helpline number just to chat. He said he had no one else to talk to during the night. But he didn’t have a complaint either,” the coordinator said.