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Thursday, July 02, 2020

An Andhra district uses tech to make police accessible, especially for women

Prakasam Superintendent of Police has won the seventh G-Files governance award for Spandana project.

Written by Sreenivas Janyala | Hyderabad | Updated: December 23, 2019 7:33:14 am
Andhra Pradesh, Spandana project, Andhra Pradesh women safety, women safety, Andhra Pradesh police, indian express Prakasam Police officials resolving cases through video conferencing. (Express)

Spandana, an Andhra Pradesh Government initiative to make police stations more approachable for the public, especially women, is winning accolades and awards. Although it is being implemented state-wide, Prakasam district’s Superintendent of Police (SP), Siddharth Kaushal has initiated several reforms and the district has topped in resolving complaints, especially from women. For his efforts, Kaushal was awarded the 7th G-Files Governance Award on December 13.

The annual G Files award is given to civil servants for innovative reforms in governance.

Spandana was launched in July, and 52 per cent of the complainants were women. The district police also introduced Spandana Beyond Borders—people of the district living outside the district, state or abroad can interact with the SP through video conferencing and register their complaints. Spandana, which means response, is also being held at District Collectors’ offices too but it is in the police department where it is creating an impact.

“We have basically made it very easy for anyone to approach us and lodge a complaint or register a grievance,” says Kaushal. “Women, in particular, do not like to go to police stations but after Spandana centres were established, more women are approaching with their complaints. A woman does not have to go to a police station at all. If she visits a Spandana centre and submits her complaint or connects with me through video-conferencing and if her complaint is criminal in nature, an FIR would be immediately lodged or we will conduct an inquiry and initiate action. All complaints have to be closed within 15 days,” he said.


Why Spandana is a success

There are two broad reasons why Spandana initiative has succeeded. One is the use of technology. With Spandana centres spread across the district, each having video conferencing facility, it is easier and cheaper for people to lodge complaints. They no longer have to travel to the district headquarters to follow up. The second reason is the special attention to women complainants.

Prakasam district has led the Spandana initiative (see box) with 84 Spandana centres within the premises of all police stations, offices of Inspectors, Deputy SPs and the SP office. These centres mostly have a female receptionist and other staff members who are trained, briefed and sensitised in handling women victims and complainants.

“Through Spandana we have become available and accessible. Available because the police is eager to meet and serve the people and address their complaints. Accessible because we have established proper communication facilities and are now connected via video conferencing. When a complainant walks into my office during the Spandana programme, I and the complainant often connect to the field officer concerned to discuss the issue and how it can be resolved. It becomes a three-way communication and this is giving confidence to people to approach police,” he said.

All 84 Spandana centres of the district have the facilities for a three-way video conference.

Prakasam district is spread over 18,000 sq km with approximately 40 lakh population. “It is strenuous as well as expensive to those who live in faraway places to go and meet the SP in the district headquarter in Ongole… For such people, Spandana is a boon. They have to spend just one hour at the nearest centre and talk to the SP through video-conferencing,” an official said.

For instance, recently 18 Adivasi masons from Kondagaon district of Chhattisgarh narrated their ordeal through video-conferencing from a Spandana centre stating that they were not paid by their contractor in Korisapadu Mandal in Prakasam. The contractor, Bathula Ravi, was summoned to the office of Addanki Police Inspector where he gave an undertaking that he would pay within 24 hours. The next day he paid the Rs 2 lakhs that he owed to the masons and also assured that he would make arrangements for the mason to go back to their state safely.

Since July, the Prakasam Police has received over 3,500 petitions resulting in 845 cases being registered. “In the rest of the cases, they have been settled amicably mostly,” he said.

To create awareness about the Spandana centres, cops have put up banners and flex boards all over the district.

“As word spread about the procedure and friendliness, more and more people are coming forward with their grievances. At the Spandana facility the average time given to each complainant by the officer is 8.5 minutes,” DGP D Goutam Sawang said.

Spandana Beyond Borders was launched on November 25. People from anywhere in the world can now video chat with the SP on Monday afternoon.

Officials said that many people from within the country — from places such as Bengaluru, Delhi, Lucknow, Jammu and Hyderabad — as well as from outside India — from places such as the US, Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, Dubai, UAE, and Singapore — have utilised the services so far and solved their issues using the facility.

Besides the G Files Awards, Spandana Online was nominated by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), which operates under the National Police Mission in Delhi, for its award.

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