Nirbhaya Project

To prevent atrocities against women and children, the state home department launched Nirbhaya Kerala Surakshitha Kerala programme on a pilot basis in the city on August 1, 2014. For implementing the project, 120 women volunteers had recruited from 74 divisions in the Kochi corporation. The volunteers were selected from 200 applicants after an interview by a panel comprising lawyer, police officer, doctor, psychologist and a social worker.

The selection was based on their willingness to work for a social cause, attitude and gender sensitivity. The Special Branch Police verified the background of volunteers. Majority of the selected volunteers had work experience and almost 60% were associated with Kudumbashree. The volunteers also included ASHA workers and retired women. Through the innovative scheme, the government aims at making the state women-friendly where women can safely travel even at midnight.

Nirbhaya Project mainly focusing on a three-point agenda

  • Prevention
  • Prosecution
  • Protection

In prevention, major areas of intervention lie in sensitising society, empowering vulnerable groups, targeting contributing factors such as alcoholism, gender discrimination and consumerism. The scheme also aims at providing proper rehabilitation facilities to help the victim to heal, recover, empower and reintegrate back into society.

Prosecution is another area of intervention where strong laws have to be formulated to ensure rigorous punishment for the culprits which will be a deterrent for such criminals. The policy focuses on child abuse, commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, which constitute the worst forms of sexual violence in the state. Increasing cases of atrocities against women and children is a danger signal which needs to be rectified. Increased violence against women reveal that women and minor girls are not safe even in their homes and educational institutions. The scheme is being jointly implemented by various government departments like Social Welfare, SC/ST, Police, Health, Labour, and Local Self Government in coordination with NGOs.

As part of the Protection, five rehabilitation centres set up at various places of the state which provides facilities for education and employment to the victims. The government also provided a specific budget provision for the implementation of the policy recommendations of Nirbhaya. Jagratha Samithis, under the Kerala Women's Commission, at panchayat/local self government level is the core committees for implementing the Nirbhaya programme. In addition, there are district Nirbhaya committees and a state level coordination committee which is closely reviewing the status of the programme and monitor the functioning of local bodies, departments and institutions. An anti-trafficking squad establishes contact centres at transit points like bus stands, railway stations and airports. Toll-free helpline numbers and help booths under the jurisdiction of each police station assist the victims in getting immediate help. The squad protects the victim from media exposure and ensure that the victim gets access to immediate trauma care, medical care and protection within the minimum possible time.

Nirbhaya autorickshaws and taxi

To tide over the insecurity which women feel, when travelling in public Transport vehicles, the Thiruvanthapuram city police had come up with Women-friendly autorickshaws. The facility is functioning in the city successfully and so needs to be expanded to other areas and also in its local spread. As the government of Kerala has already launched the Nirbhaya Scheme for Women Safety, it is proposed to extend this scheme with the name Nirbhaya Autos / Taxis.

The 24 / 7 women-friendly Autorickshaws / Taxis aim at helping women who travel, particularly during late hours after work. Under this scheme a selected number of Autorikshaws / Taxis will be identified thru a rigorous selection and verification process and they will be designated as Nirbhaya Autos / Taxis in all the Stands. To identify women-friendly autorickshaws, the facility will have large stickers which will be displayed as the logo of the service, with the name Nirbhaya Auto / Taxi, as displayed above.

The success of the scheme lies in proper verification of the driver and this has to be done thoroughly and periodically. It will be ensured by the Police thru surprise checks, that the correct and the security cleared driver only is operating the Auto and he does not lend it to someone else Also all these Autorikshaws / Taxis have to be directed to keep a laminated ID in front of the passenger seat- with details of the vehicle number, name and address of the driver, with mobile number. This should be placed in such a way that it is easily visible to the commuter/ traveller.

An instruction should also be written, that as soon as you board the autorikshaw, you can sms the vehicle number to a few of your friends or take a photo of the ID and send it over any mobile application to the police number/ friends etc

In every Auto stand, the Police needs to identify thru a proper screening process a few autorikshaws/ Taxis that can be classified as Women friendly, so that calls to the control Room can be avoided. But care and multiple verification has to be done before the catagorisation is done. Also the drivers of such vehicles should be briefed that if they are leaving the occupation, then he should inform the Police officials of the same and the sticker given may be withdrawn. Each District will designate one DySP as the Nodal officer for the successful implementation and monitoring of the scheme. He will regularly conduct surprise checks on these vehicles and ensure that they are following all the above directions. All the drivers selected should be subjected to a one day seminar- with classes on their responsibilities and duties. They can be called for orientation classes on a periodical basis.