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187 Santwana Kendras in Karnataka to shut doors

Express News Service

BENGALURU: The Department of Women and Child Development is likely to shut down 187 Santwana Kendras due to a lack of funds, dealing a major blow to the women in the State. Santwana Kendras were started in 2001 and have provided temporary shelter, education, and legal and financial aid to thousands of women victimised by domestic and sexual violence. Each kendra has a counsellor and three social workers to assist women in distress. 

However, the programme has always struggled to exist as the Department of Finance does not fund it. 
“The Kendras were not part of the budget allocation. Right now they are running on funds from the Bhagyalakshmi bond scheme (to promote the birth of girl children in below poverty line families and to raise status of girls in society) which are surplus funds,” said Peddappaiah R S, Director of the Women and Child Welfare Department. 

Counsellors at kendras told The New Indian Express on condition of anonymity that they have already been asked to look for other jobs and quit by the end of the month. “A counsellor is only paid a meagre Rs 13,000 a month. But we have not been paid for the past five months,” said a counsellor with a Santwana Kendra in Bengaluru.Although the Central government’s Sakhi One Stop Centre aims to provide fee medical treatment, legal aid, easier access to police, and counselling to women victimised by sexual and domestic abuse, the initiative is yet to be fully functional in Karnataka. Moreover, each district will have only one such centre, making access more difficult. 

Bengaluru’s Sakhi centre is in Vikasa Soudha and has one counsellor catering to about four million women. But a Santwana kendra counsellor who wished to remain anonymous pointed out another problem with the set-up: “Which woman who is abused or raped would walk into Vikasa Soudha to get counselling?”In addition to 15 Santwana Kendras, Bengaluru has a dedicated women’s helpline – Vanitha Sahayavani – run by NGO Parihar, which has also become difficult to access. While it was had its own space on the premises of the city police headquarters on Infantry Road until October 9, it is now functioning from inside Bengaluru’s two all-women police stations in Shivajinagar and Basavangudi.

A Santwana Kendra counsellor said the move would be counter-productive. “The ethics of counselling is privacy and confidentiality. If the helpline is inside a police station, it is difficult for a woman to walk in and address her issues. A separate space where women and children feel comfortable is important.”

Additional Commissioner of Police (admin) Hemanth Nimbalkar told The New Indian Express that the helpline was shifted due to the rising Covid-19 cases as people were crowding at one place. “Now there are two helplines. There are initial teething issues which will be addressed as soon as possible,” he said. 
City Police Commissioner Kamal Pant admitted that separate space is required for counselling. “The helpline at Basavangudi women’s station will be shifted to the Law & Order station where there is a separate building. We will sort out the issues,” he said.

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