The number of cases pending with the Maharashtra State Commission for Women (MSCW) has been increasing over the years and there has also been a steady rise in the count of complaints related to harassment of women at workplace received by the panel, an RTI reply has revealed.
According to the reply obtained by city-based RTI activist Jeetendra Ghadge, 2,917 cases were pending before the commission in 2012 which shot up to 3,573 in 2013, 5,092 in 2014 and 5,929 in 2015. The reply also revealed the women’s right panel had received only 40 complaints of sexual harassment at workplaces in 2012-13, which subsequently rose to 262 in 2013-14, dropped to 91 in 2014-15 and again shot up to 102 in 2015-16, he said.
Ghadge had filed an application before the MSCW seeking to know the number and nature of cases pending before it. The commission has data only till 2015. The activist said the commission does not have data about the number of cases forwarded to police stations for further investigations.
“I also sought the number of cases which were forwarded to police stations for investigations. However, the commission said it does not maintain such records.” Ghadge said, “The data clearly shows the commission is not performing as expected and it urgently requires more staff and resources.” When contacted, MSCW chairperson Vijaya Rahatkar said cases piled up before the panel because it was without a chairperson for six years.
“The number of pending cases have gone up because the commission was headless for over six years. However, since I took charge last year, I have tried to revive the panel and have started holding regular hearings by meeting parties involved in cases,” she said.
“We have got manpower, we have got budget now and most importantly, we have been successful in instilling a sense of security among women,” Rahatkar said. Besides receiving complaints related to sexual harassment at offices/workplaces, the panel gets domestic cases pertaining to family and marriage issues, among others.
Set up in 1993, the commission consists of the chairperson, six non-official members, a member-secretary and the DGP as an ex-officio member. The panel functions as a body that works to improve the status of women in the society and investigate practices unfavourable to women.
The commission is also mandated to suggest measures, including framing of laws, to the government to improve the condition of women and uplift their status.