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Distress cry in haven
- Women’s rights panel chief cites spurt in atrocities; quartet walks free after assault arrest
Commission Suggestions

• There must be women desks at every police station and complaints taken sensitively; every police station must have posters mentioning rights of women, written in simple vernacular

• The government must have its own helplines — easy-to-remember, three digit numbers directly linked to the offices of the commissioner and director-general of police, and publicised widely. “Most helplines now are run by NGOs”; Numbers of existing helplines: 10921, 10922, 10923, 10924 and 10925 must be widely publicised.

• Pension schemes for poor widows must be increased

Oasis of peace, the chief minister said, not so long ago.

Desert of distress is more like it, comes the counter cry.

Calcutta is far from the haven of peace it is made out to be by the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government, claims the National Commission for Women (NCW).

Chairperson Poornima Advani warned on Friday that the crime count against women in Calcutta had doubled in just a year. She went on to express concern over the fact that “atrocities against women” in Bengal was high, compared with most other states.

Quoting Calcutta Police figures, Advani said: “The chief minister, whom we met on Thursday, said the law-and-order situation is under control. But as far as facts are concerned, the reality is that crime against women has doubled from last year.”

From 36 rapes in 2001-02, the figure has gone up to 52 in the city police areas in 2002-03.

“A number of cases are also not reported and the matter is of greater concern in the remote areas of the state,” added Advani.

According to the NCW chairperson, though crime graphs are essential, “one must not make such a great thing out of them, because if a state government finds that the crime rate is increasing, its machinery often ceases to lodge complaints”.

Refusing to be drawn into a comparison between metros, Advani went on: “I don’t want to instil fear among women by saying Calcutta is not safe for women. I only want to say that every complaint must be recorded.”

The commission, however, took heart in the fact that both the director-general of state police and the city police commissioner had said the prevention of atrocities against women was high on their priority list.

Advani on Friday spoke to senior officials at Writers’ Buildings, including chief secretary Asok Gupta, home secretary Amit Kiran Deb, director-general of state police Shyamal Dutta and city police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty. She also interacted with some NGOs working with women.

Crime against women, government schemes to benefit poor women, sexual harassment in the workplace, trafficking, witch-hunting, dowry, girl dropouts, the condition of the Liluah home and other concerns figured in the talks.

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