Special Interview with the Disha Special Officer and Director of Women and Child Welfare, Andhra Pradesh, Dr Kritika Shukla.

What is the aim of Disha?

Disha is an overall framework for crimes against women and children. Grave crimes against women and children such as rape, gangrape under POCSO Act and IPC 375 are covered under Disha.

 Disha is aimed at providing immediate justice. The Act provides for completion of police investigation within 7 days, Courts should give judgment in 14 days. So, Justice has to be given within 21 days. The framework is designed in such a way. Penalties are increased, the death penalty is the punishment.

Implementation has to be as strong as the ACT because we can’t have such strong laws without equally strong implementation framework. As part of that 18 Disha Police Stations have been established. In every Police district, one Disha Police Station exclusively dealing with such offences against women and children. Disha police station deals Sec 376 offences. One Disha One-stop Centre in every district and centre, to look after implementation for rehabilitation, legal aid, psychological help to the victim. Conviction of Perpetrators of crime, medical sampling of accused takes place in the one-stop centre.

Sexual Harassment is another issue women face at workplaces and at home, How are you planning to eradicate that?

Women and Child welfare department has a section for protection for women. It is going on for years. We have mandated an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at schools, colleges and organisations. We have taken compliance reports from organisations that their organisations are maintaining such internal complaints committee. We get complaints through the mail, one-stop centres, Disha SOS app. When it pertains to an institution, harassment by a person at a higher level or a colleague, we refer it first to the ICC. ICC is mandatory, lapse in implementation is punishable. Still, some institutions don’t have but we are pursuing it. Domestic violence is the highest and dowry, starting from counselling to filing of DIR report, separate ACT and procedure is in place. We have two councillors social and legal.

We have Advocates from District Legal Service Authority working free of cost to provide legal aid. This is the existing framework which is being implemented. Disha is for adverse crimes.

How many complaints have you received?

We have received 15,000 calls till now through Disha SOS app. Majority of them are test calls by women to check the working of the app. Only 96 actionable complaints are received and the department intervened and helped. In 26 cases FIR is filed, the rest cases are domestic violence where the parties have agreed to settle after counselling, women have asked not to file an FIR after counselling. Till now no rape complaint is received. Eve teasing, sexual harassment, domestic violence complaints are recorded.

What is the compensation provided through Disha to the victims?

It is the same manner as before prescribed by the district legal service Authority, they are eligible for compensation from them and the women and child welfare department.       

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