Mass awareness on OSCs awaits central funds

‘Established across 20 districts, funds in pipeline’

Srinagar, Oct 15: While the government has set up One-Stop Centers (OSCs) in each district, the awareness about this medico-legal facility for protection of women and children in distress is in its infancy.

Fresh funds would give a boost to mass awareness campaigns, the implementing Social Welfare department said.

With crimes against women and children rising, and fresh incidents coming to fore every other day even in J&K, the need for an effective intervention is dire.

In this direction, the process for establishing OSCs started in 2018 on the orders of the Union Ministry for Women and Child Development (WCD).

After much delay, now there is a place named OSCs in each district of J&K.

These centers are required to have facilities for recording the statement of a victim of violence in its premises, video-conferencing facility to appear in court without the need to visit the court, medical aid, counselors and psychiatrists and facilities for boarding and lodging in safety, without threat from anyone.

However, a senior official said, these centers lack most of the facilities and the focus was yet to be concentrated on making the programme effective in facility provision and utilisation.

As per the Union Ministry of WCD, an umbrella scheme for “safety, security and empowerment of women as an integrated women empowerment programme under ‘Mission Shakti’ including the component of One Stop Centres” was in the offing.

It has said that J&K has been granted Rs 1.5 crore in 2018-19, Rs 1 crore in 2019-20 and Rs 2.25 crore in 2020-21 for OSCs.

Of the total, just a little over Rs 72 lakh have been utilised.

In addition, Rs 34.67 crorehave been released under Nirbhaya Fund of which Rs 20.92 crore have been utilised.

A senior official in the department said that for 2021-22, no funds have been released yet, putting a halt to much of the planned activities, which have already suffered due to pandemic.

Many stakeholders have expressed concern over the lack of awareness regarding OSCs.

“Ask the department how many women, even among the most educated lot, know that such centers exist and the mechanism that is available in case they need protection and guidance while facing violence and abuse,” said a Police official, who is not authorised to talk to the media.

He said that there was a need to strengthen the centers in terms of what they were capable of offering as well as increasing awareness and access to the facilities.

Talking to Greater Kashmir, Director Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), J&K, Shabnam Shah Kamili said OSCs were “doing well” in all districts of J&K and the scheme was a focus area of the department.

She said that the Department of Social Welfare had entered into a contract with NGOs and that it was “an innovative approach” towards securing rights of women and children and ensuring their safety”. About the lack of funds, Kamili said that the allocation takes time and the pandemic was responsible for the delay.

“We will start our mass awareness campaign as soon as we get funds for this financial year,” she said.

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