The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) has stepped into murky waters. After an AAP volunteer filed a complaint accusing party leader Kumar Vishwas of spreading “false rumours”, the DCW sent him a notice to appear before it. Vishwas has denied the charges and alleged a BJP conspiracy to defame him. Since then, a video has surfaced, apparently showing the volunteer being “coached” by an ex-Congress worker. The plot thickens. But why, when the facts seem so nebulous and the case itself so thin, must the DCW be embroiled in it?
Whatever the DCW’s motivations in this case, a suspicion of political bad faith clings to national and state commissions. Members are appointed on the recommendations of ministers and MPs; the eligibility criteria leave vast room for discretion. Very often, they consist of political favourites installed by the ruling party, instead of individuals with the relevant qualifications. This has cast serious doubt on their ability to function independently. Every change in government triggers an exodus from such commissions, as the appointees of the previous regime are replaced. The current DCW has also been affected by the tug and pull of political changes, especially the tenure of its current chief, former Congress MLA Barkha Shukla Singh. After the AAP came to power in December 2013, questions had been raised over why Singh continued in office. This time, Singh has stuck to her post on the grounds that her tenure only ends in July.
The NCW and state commissions have acquired a reputation, deservedly, of being toothless bodies with a penchant for making provocative statements on frivolous issues. Where is the hard labour and scrupulous attention that women’s issues in this country deserve?
Why, for instance, was the NCW’s countrywide helpline, which might have been of real use to women in distress, wound up months after it was launched in 2012? Until the DCW sets the record straight, its lively interest in the allegations made by the AAP volunteer can only raise eyebrows.