In the aftermath of a crime, although perpetrators are punished and penalised for their actions, the victim’s plight remains unattended. Working for their rights and rehabilitation is the NGO, DISHA.
In the aftermath of a crime, although perpetrators are punished and penalised for their actions, the victim’s plight is relatively unattended and unfocussed. Punishment to the criminal is looked upon as justice to the victim, not just by whole society but even by the victim himself.
Pravin Khandpasole, an Ashoka fellow from Amravati in Maharashtra, works for the rights and restoration of victims of violent crimes since 2009 through DISHA. A social worker by profession, Pravin worked earlier for prisoner’s rights but soon realised the need of working for victim’s rights.
DISHA for victim
DISHA (Developing Intervention for Social Human Action) has been working towards rights and holistic restoration of victims of violent crimes such as homicide, domestic violence, and sexual assault since its inception in 2008.
In its first year, DISHA conducted an action research in Amravati district in order to understand more about victim’s current status in Criminal Justice System (CJS), their needs and roles of various stakeholders in the CJS, and possible interventions within the current system.
“There was no other organisation working on the same issue we could look up to for deciding our interventions. Neither were there any legal provisions for victims; hence, we had to rely on self to provide possible solutions.
We provide counselling, moral support, information about suitable government schemes, and financial aid through individual donations from others or us. We also provide them services at our individual level, like assisting them in court, hospital, other government offices, helping the needy and poor victim to buy medicines, making school, college admissions of their young ones; we provide strictly need-based solutions within our scope,” shares Manish Khandpasole, Project Co-ordinator at disha.
Pravin says that in the Indian context, the CJS is devised to protect the rights of the innocent and punish the guilty. But few provisions are featured to protect the victim. Victim activates CJS as complainant and his or her role ends after giving witness, if needed.
“The focus of the system is only on prosecution and punishment of accused. Also, there are several provisions and laws for the protection of prisoner’s rights. The constitution and laws acknowledge the rights of the accused or the convict; but unfortunately, victim’s rights and need of restoration are ignored. Thus, the victim irrespective of offense has to wait for long for justice that has no provision for his/her rehabilitation,” he says.
DISHA’s efforts towards helping out victims have majorly been structured into interventions pre-crime and post-crime. DISHA conducts home visits and comes to the victim’s assistance by counselling the victims and their family members.
The team identifies difficulties, issues, and concerns of the victims and their families and helps them restore back to routine and lead a peaceful life. Also, part of these home visits include sending children back to school and getting victims to find employment opportunities through vocational training courses.
DISHA has set up a helpline so that the victims can reach out to the members of DISHA for any support, assistance, and information. The victims often reach out for socio-legal guidance. This year, this initiative by DISHA was awarded by ‘The Pollination Project’ team, which awards social initiatives from around the globe.
DISHA is also running a regular victim-support desk in Asegaon-Purna Police station, which proved the necessity of such supportive desk at victim–police interface. In the resultant success of this help desk, DISHA received permission for conducting such help desk at all the 31 rural police stations in Amravati district. The activity will be called ‘Mobile Help-desk’.
Advocacy and activism
DISHA filed a Public Interest Litigation for drafting and implementation of ‘Victim Compensation Scheme’ in 2010, and the Maharashtra Victim Compensation Scheme was formed in 2014. DISHA is now looking at the implementation of the compensation scheme in the state as well as putting in efforts to get similar schemes passed in other states.
To address crime prevention, DISHA has been reaching out to various sections of society like children, youth, parents, teachers, community and vulnerable sections of society in the form of awareness programmes on personal safety and combat crime.
DISHA runs two such awareness programmes – ‘Safe Childhood’ for prevention of sexual abuse of children and ‘Tarunyachya Umbarthyawr’ for youth to make them aware of relationship violence and guide them through the challenges they face.
Every year, DISHA reaches out to at least 6,000 people in rural areas of Maharashtra through its awareness programmes, and to about 300 victims through rehabilitation and counselling.
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