Got a harassment complaint? Police, colleges don't care

Sep 11, 2014, 13:50 IST | Dattatraya Adhalge and Niranjan Medhekar

mid-day dropped dummy harassment complaints into grievance boxes at some Pune colleges; weeks later, neither the police nor the college authorities have responded

As frequent incidents of harassment and violence against students — particularly girls — continue to raise concerns for their safety across the country, female students in the city have perhaps considered sharing their own harassment complaints by dropping a letter in the blue grievance boxes placed at every city college by the Pune Police. But, if they’re hoping that their complaint will lead to immediate action, they are in for disappointment.

complaint box
As part of an old initiative to protect female students in the city, the police had placed complaint boxes at colleges all over the city, such as this one at Tikaram Jagannath College in Khadki. Pic/ Dattatraya Adhalge

As part of a women’s safety initiative that goes back several years, the police had placed complaint boxes at colleges across the city, specifically for female students with any grievances about teasing or any other form of harassment. In an attempt to find out how efficient the system of the complaint boxes is, and how often the police or college administrations check them, mid-day dropped some dummy complaints at a few prominent city colleges.

Modern College
No one’s listening: Girls drop complaints in the box at Modern College, Ganeshkhind, but it remains to be seen whether the police will take note of their grievances. Pic/Dattatraya Adhalge

Complaint letters were dropped at Tikaram Jagannath College, Government Polytechnic Institute and Modern College between two months and a fortnight ago. The complaint reads: “I am a first year student at this institute and since the past few days, a group of boys have been passing lewd comments aimed at me while standing near the main gate of the college. Please take strict action against them.” The complaint included a contact number for the police to get in touch, but no response has been received to any of the three complaints yet.

Clueless colleges
Further investigation revealed that colleges were, for the most part, not even aware of how often the boxes were being checked for complaints, and squarely placed all the responsibility for the initiative on the police.

P V Sarode, principal of Government Polytechnic Institute on University road, said, “I don’t know how frequently the police open the complaint box, as the key is with them. Ideally, after going through the complaints, the police should give us feedback as well, according to the gravity of the grievances.”

While the police may be responsible for both the initiative and the key, one would assume that college authorities would care enough to follow up with the police and ensure that they visit the campus often to check the boxes.

The Principal of Modern College, Sanjay Kharat admitted that the campus complaint box has not been opened since the last two or three months. “It is expected that colleges should open the box at least once in a month, in the presence of local police, which was regularly taking place in the last academic year. But since the police inspector of Chatushrungi Police changed recently, unfortunately this practice has stopped. But the initiative is really good, and we are looking at how we can continue it efficiently,” Kharat said.

‘Boxes are unnecessary’
On the other hand, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone 3), Dr Rajendra Mane doesn’t even believe that the boxes are relevant or necessary anymore. Mane, whose jurisdiction covers all the three colleges mid-day approached for the issue, said, “In today’s world, girls have gathered the courage to directly file complaints rather than taking the help of complaint box to maintain anonymity. Hence, we do not receive many complaints in the boxes.”

But when it was revealed to him that there was at least one complaint at each of the three colleges that had not been answered in several weeks, he said, “A lot of awareness in this regard is required. Actually, it is the duty of lady marshals and
patrolling teams to check these boxes while visiting colleges. I will issue fresh directions to all police stations today itself to ensure that this happens .”

mid-day’s complaints


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