The State Women’s Commission, which is now being called as the Women and Child Rights Commission, has been silent about some of the major incidents involving violence against women and girls in the state, the recent example being the Kathua case. How do you think you are going to bring a change in the working of the commission?
See, I believe whether it is Kathua case or any other case, where a woman or girl or children, since we are also been given the responsibility of child welfare, I believe the institutions should do justice to the mandate which is entrusted upon them and they must come forward to address those issues very vigorously which are supposed to be done by them in any which capacity.
Since I am not aware as to what commission had done or had not done in Kathua case at that particular time, I can speak only for my own self. What I could do and what I have done in the Kathua case it’s all in the public domain.
After you joined as the chairperson of the commission you went to Lal Ded and GB Pant hospital. In the recent past this is the first time a chairperson has done an inspection of the largest maternity and children hospital in Kashmir. What do you have to say about it?
According to me I have not done something which is out of the way, or done something which is too much for people. This is just a plain responsibility that I wanted to exercise. I wanted to ascertain as to what women in Lal Ded hospital are going through, because being very closely associated with Jammu and Kashmir and being married here for last 18 years I have always been involved into the happenings and the news with the regards to the welfare of women and children. I had a notion that somewhere the system in Lal Ded is not working properly, so it was on my top most priority, not only Lal Ded but G B Pant hospital also and when I took over the charge, in just half an hour i went out of my office, took my staff along and went for the inspection.
This is something which has been simmering in me for long and when I say this, it means I have given up my practice in the supreme court just for the sake of people in the state of J&K, especially women and children because this is the least I can do for them by being a part of them and by making sure that all the benefits of the laws that are in place, welfare schemes, policies that have been formulated for their welfare are duly being accessed by them and accessible justice being one of them.
What changes do you think your visit has brought in the hospitals?
I have been informed by someone very recently that after my visit the superintendent or the management concerned they have issued some kind of directives with regard to the creation of proper toilets, infrastructure, and with the regards to the upkeep of the patients over there. Also, I have been told that Government Medical College (GMC), Srinagar has formulated an advisory and they have mentioned my name as one of the members without even taking my consent.
The Government of India recently approved changes in POCSO Act, which deals with crime against children, and included death penalty for sexual assault for minors. Would you also pitch for the same changes in the POCSO Act here in J&K?
As you are aware of the fact that there has been amendment in the POCSO Act and exactly the same we are going to recommend to the Governor Administration.
So would you also recommend ban on pellet guns in Kashmir as they have done immense damage to the women and children in J&K?
This is the mandate of Commission to protect Women and Child Rights and anything that is against or violates the basic human rights of women and children should be banned.
What is the stand of Commission on the harassment of women in offices and public transport?
The Commission will soon be issuing advisory to all government and non-government institutions to implement Vishaka guidelines in letter and spirit, including setting up of Internal Complaint Committee (ICC). The commission strongly believes that government should roll out women only buses viz viz ensuring reserved seats for women in existing means of transport.
The cases of harassment against women in public transports should be dealt sternly and the license of such vehicles/ transport companies be revoked wherein such cases are reported.
Last year there was an amendment in the act and the protection for the rights of children were also included in the Act which was later renamed as State Commission for Protection of Women and Child Rights. How many cases of children have the commission received so far?
See, as of now and as per my latest knowledge not many cases of children have been received by the commission and the problem is lack of awareness among the people. But, yes we are taking suo-moto cognisances of many cases.
We don’t have shelter and observation homes for women and children in J&K and the ones we have are not up-to-mark. How are you going to address this issue?
I went to inspect the orphanages that we have in Shalimar. I had a surprise inspection and a close door interaction with the children. I had requested the superintendent and the staff to be out for some time, so that I could have one on one discussion with them.
I was satisfied with the general upkeep of the children there, for that I congratulate the superintendents of both girls and boys wing of the orphanage. But the building of the orphanage is faulty. It’s a 60- year – old building and it has developed cracks. This is an unsafe building for the children.
They told me when it rains, the rooms get inundated. This is very disturbing. There is a dearth of staff in the orphanage; also there is no medical facility available for the children.
I have interacted with many NGOs ever since I have taken over. In fact, I am myself reach out by all sorts of means so that they can come forward. I have asked them to come up with a charter of demands. I have also requested the superintendent of the orphanage to come up with the charter of demands so that the commission can provide welfare to the kids in our capacity it can also make recommendations to the government so that best of the best facilities can be assured.
What problem do you think women and children in Kashmir are facing?
Some days ago a women came to the commission with a representation and said that my case is being running for almost 9 years in the High Court and it’s stuck up at the final hearing stage and yet there is no final hearing. She cried a lot and said that Mam I am at the verge of disaster. The prime time of my life has been spoiled.
I attended to her, despite the fact that we are not mandated to entertain such applications that are sub judice. I could have straight away told her that you case can’t be entertained, but I made her sit, made her comfortable and whatever in my personal capacity I could advise her, I advised.
So mu point is, the problem is not with the women and children, there is a huge problem of our culture. Then we do have cases of domestic violence here and then there are cases of harassment of women at their work places. Recently I got one of these cases and there are some cases which are lined up and there are some cases from Jammu also which have come to my notice. I have instructed my staff to start writing to all of them, because the commission was vacant for last one and half year.
The office of the Commission is not accessible to the people, because it has been shifted from the old Assembly Complex, and people have no knowledge where the office building has been shifted. Have you taken up this matter with the higher ups?
I have taken up this matter with the Governor administration and they have told us that they sought this matter out.