One Stop Centre: Let’s Stop and Think Over

Reading time: 4-5 minutes.

In 2013, the Ministry of Finance launched the Nirbhaya Scheme that funded a sub-scheme called the ‘One Stop Centre Scheme’ to operate crisis intervention centers for survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV).

One Stop Centers (OSCs) were setup as a single point relief institution for SGBV survivors immediately after having suffered or been subject to violence. To support the survivors, the OSC scheme proposed an array of services such as medical assistance, shelter, access to the police, legal services and psychological care for SGBV victims.

What are the services provided by OSCs?

The scheme required OSCs to be constructed within a hospital or within a 2 km radius of the hospital facility at an existing government or semi government institution. Presently, OSCs are integrated with women’s helplines, the police and anganwadi workers, to provide the following services:

  • Medical assistance for the examination;
  • Police assistance for filings;
  • Psycho-social support and counselling;
  • Legal aid; and
  • Video conferencing facilities.            

What is the structure of this scheme?

OSC Scheme is completely centrally funded, where the funds are made available by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to the district authorities directly. After the initial investment, the subsequent rounds of funds are released bi-annually on the basis of expense and utilization reports from district authorities.

It is estimated that the cost of constructing an OSC is estimated to be approximately INR 49 Lakhs and the yearly cost of operating INR 35 Lakhs and a total of INR 2000 Crores is available under the Nirbhaya Scheme. The investment required in setting up and operating an OSC raises a question especially after considering the magnitude of funds deployed for the said purpose.

Is OSC Scheme actually standing true to its objective of providing relief to SGBV survivors?

After extensive research, following operational lapses were unearthed:

Locked Centres: The 2017 Guidelines on the Implementation of the OSC Scheme requires OSCs to be open round the clock to serve emergency cases of SGBV victims. Be that as it may, the centres were found to be non-functional and the they only saw the light of the day when a complaint was routed through Police.

Such lacklustre attitude on the part of the concerned authorities is an obstruction to justice. Henceforth, the government ought to make sure that the guidelines enumerated under “2017 Guidelines on the Implementation of the OSC” are followed with outmost sincerity.

Non Compliance with MLHC Protocol: One of the primary functions of the OSCs is to provide medical assistance to SGBV victims. OSCs have collaborations with government hospitals, where the doctors are employed by the State or the Central Ministry of Health. Therefore, the medical professionals providing assistance for OSCs are not incentivized under the scheme.

Further, the OSC Guidelines mandates compliance with the Medico-Legal Guidelines, 2014 for SGBV survivors. Be that as it may, medical professionals assisting the OSC were found to be unaware about complying with the Medico-Legal Guidelines, 2014.

Absence of Legal and Psycho Socio Care: In addition to medical assistance, OSCs are required to provide psychological care and legal assistance to the survivors. Unfortunately, this piece of information seems to be missing in OSC centres. The sheer lack of knowledge is alarming considering the paramount importance of legal assistance to the victim at the time of crisis.

Another imperative façade of providing relief to the SGBV victim is psychological care owing to the propensity to develop mental illness such as depression, anxiety and PTSD—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

This article is brought to you in collaboration with Neha Koshy, Founder Trustee of Ladee Foundation Trust.