Manodhairya Scheme Recommendations

The state women and child development (WCD) department is likely to make changes to a government resolution pertaining to Manodhairya, the state’s compensation scheme for victims of sexual abuse and acid attack, following recommendations received from various NGOs. A committee appointed by the Bombay High Court to look into the shortcomings of the GR issued on August 1 met representatives of NGOs and government officials over a week ago. Various NGOs had raised objections to the GR. Based on their suggestions and directions of the committee, the WCD is likely to make changes to the GR, according to officials.

Among the recommendations made before the committee were compensation for victims of trafficking, revamp of district trauma teams and covering male victims under the scheme. Currently, while victims of rape, child victims of sexual abuse and acid attack victims are covered under the Manodhairya scheme, women rescued from prostitution are not included.

“One of the suggestions made was to include victims of trafficking as part of the scheme. Other suggestions were relating to rape victims. Under the modified scheme the amount paid to a victim who dies due to sexual assault or rape is only Rs 1 lakh, while for a victim who suffers grievous injury or mental trauma or is gang-raped is Rs 10 lakh. This should not be the case. All rape victims should be covered under the scheme,” said senior advocate Mihir Desai, who is appearing for one of the petitioners, Forum Against Oppression of Women.

Anti-human trafficking NGO Justice and Care has recommended that one particular area that needs to be addressed is children subjected to rape or otherwise sexually abused daily after being trafficked. “The Manodhairya scheme uses the word ‘child’ for compensation in POCSO cases, while not discriminating against boys. However, the challenge lies in securing compensation for sexually exploited male children and hence there is need for it to be specially mentioned that the scheme applies to all children irrespective of gender,” said Adrian Phillips, legal counsel and spokesperson, Justice and Care.

Majlis Manch, through its director and advocate Flavia Agnes, who had filed a PIL before the HC on the GR, also submitted suggestions that include not barring the victim from claiming compensation under any other scheme of the state or Union government, as is the case at present. Agnes has also suggested providing additional support measures in certain cases such as in the case of a victim who decides to raise a child out of an incident. In such cases, suggested Majlis, the government could extend proper rehabilitation and other support to the mother and the child.

“Among the collective recommendations was a unanimous demand that district trauma teams have to be activated. It was said that the teams are invisible and they have to be strengthened. Aspects like counselling, which are ignored, need to be looked at,” said an NGO member, part of the collective that gave its recommendations. The new GR was silent on the teams that were part of the earlier GR. These were meant to be teams appointed in every district to provide immediate assistance to victis and included police officials, medical officers, psychiatrists and nurses at district, taluka and village levels.

The new GR had also done away with the district-level committee that recommended compensation to the victims, transferring the role to the District Legal Services Authority. “It was suggested that the district committee should have non-official members like representatives from women’s organisations. We also suggested that all rescued minors be treated as rape victims and in case of adult women rescued, legal assistance be provided to register case of rape against the accused if she wishes,” said Dr Vijay Raghavan, faculty of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Besides this, NGOs sought to do away with the present system followed for payment of the compensation. At present, 75 per cent of the monetary compensation awarded has to be kept in a fixed deposit for a period of ten years and the remaining 25 per cent is given to the victim. In case the victim is a minor, the modified scheme states that the amount will be kept in fixed deposit for 20 years.

“A series of meetings under the guidance of the honourable judges are going on. The procedure is on whereby we are hearing each and every suggestion made by NGOs or members of the civil society,” said Vinita Singhal, Secretary, WCD. Based on these suggestions and the HC direction, she added, appropriate steps would be taken to make changes in the GR. The advocate general, meanwhile, said the state government would actively consider the recommendations.