Patna district magistrate’s initiative to “box” eve-teasers creating nuisance in and outside schools and colleges has been pushed to the backburner by most institutions.
District magistrate N. Saravana Kumar had ordered the high schools and colleges for girls on May 23 to install complaint boxes by June 15 to check eve-teasing inside and outside the institutions. Nearly three months after the deadline expired, only two colleges and a school have installed the boxes. (See graphic)
Confusion over who would supply the complaint boxes delayed the implementation of the district magistrate’s order. Principals of most of the colleges assumed that the Women’s Helpline would supply them and kept waiting for over three months. But the latter washed its hands of the issue, saying it was not supposed to supply the boxes.
Disappointed over the approach of the institutions, the district magistrate said: “How much does it cost to install a complaint box? The principals said in a meeting that they would do it. I’ll ask them to do it by September-end.”
Most of the educational institutions attributed the delay in implementing the district magistrate’s order to logistic problems. Dolly Sinha, the principal of Magadh Mahila College, said: “We already have a suggestion box in the college. The box, which was to be installed according to the district magistrate’s instructions, was supposed to be provided by the Women’s Helpline. We are still waiting for the box to arrive,” Sinha said.
JD Women’s College principal Usha Singh echoed her. “We were about to install a complaint box when the district magistrate issued an order regarding the same. Since the Women’s Helpline had to distribute the box, we dropped the idea of installing one on our own. It’s been more than three months and we are still waiting for the Women’s Helpline to send it,” she said.
On who informed the institutions that the Women’s Helpline would supply the complaint boxes, principal Sinha, said: “We learnt it from newspapers.”
The Women’s Helpline authorities contradicted the principals, though. The helpline in-charge, Pramila, said: “We were not supposed to send any complaint box. It was to be done at the level of the district education officer (DEO).”
DEO Arun Kumar said: “We look after the schools but we don’t have to provide complaint boxes. Those have to be arranged by the institutions themselves. We have to compile a list of schools which are not adhering to the district magistrate’s order.”
While the authorities split hair about who would provide the boxes, students continue to suffer. Many of them even lodged complaints at the all-women police station.
Preeti Sharma, who studies in one of the Patna-based colleges affiliated to Magadh University, said: “I have to cross Patliputra Colony daily to reach the college. Every day, I have to stomach taunts and teasing of youths. I feel helpless because I travel alone. My college still doesn’t have a complaint box in place. It would have helped me lodge a complaint without disclosing my name.”
JD Women’s College student Reecha believes the complaint boxes would have given the girls confidence to walk freely on and outside the campuses. “I come from Kankerbagh and I have to listen to vulgar comments on my way every day. A complaint box at my college would have given us the hope and confidence that our travails would be heard,” she said.
Chitra Vaish, a professor with Arvind Mahila College, said girls have dropped letters after the institution installed a complaint box on the campus.
Sinha, the Magadh Mahila College principal, said they had not received any complaint since the suggestion box was installed a few years ago.
The idea of installing complaint boxes in schools and colleges was mooted after the administration noticed girls abstained from coming forward to complain despite rampant eve-teasing.
Its objective was to give victims an opportunity to drop complaints, addressed to the district magistrate or the principal concerned of the institution, in boxes without disclosing their identity.
Does your school or college have a complaint box? Tell firstname.lastname@example.org