BDOs overburdened to handle domestic violence cases: NGO


 Women’s rights activists are questioning whether the overburdened Panchayat block  development officers (BDOs) are equipped to handle sensitive domestic violence cases in their role as  protection officers as stipulated under the Domestic Violence Act which came into force in 2008. The activists contend they are forced to raise this question in the backdrop of rising number of cases of  domestic violence, in spite of the existence of the Act since 2008.   Take the case of Salcete block. Salcete Block Development Office has till date sent as many as 66 domestic violence cases to the Court for trial after initial inquiry Says Salcete BDO Uday Prabhudessai: “The Salcete BDO office has forwarded to the Court around 66 cases since the Act came into force in 2008. On an average, my office receives around 2-3 cases a month pertaining to domestic violence.”
“Normally, we receive complaints relating to violence, harassment –sexual, physical and mental — and  cases relating to custody of the child,” he added. Sources in the know said that since the procedure stipulated in the Domestic Violence Act is time consuming, questions are raised in panchayat circles whether the BDOs are the right authority to  perform the role as Protection Officers when they are burdened with day-to-day panchayat work. 
Remarked a panchayat official: “When the BDOs have no time to visit the panchayat bodies once a month, are they in a position to deal with sensitive marital disputes. The government should take a call whether male BDOs will do justice to women in distress and seeking justice”. The issue was raised and deliberated at many a Panchayat fora by the respective BDOs, but pleas to  replace BDOs as Protection Officers seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Says women activist and President of Bailancho Ekvott, Auda Viegas: “Appointing BDOs as Protection  Officers is utter nonsense. I don’t blame the BDOs for the situation, when they are overburdened with  panchayat matters and with no infrastructure put in place by the government to deal with women’s  cases.”
Auda said the government should replace the BDOs with retired police officers or NGOs, preferably a  woman, who can do justice for the job. “The BDOs have no infrastructure. There’s no round-the-clock  helpline for women in distress. The women are required to fill in 20 forms. I am afraid whether the BDOs  do justice for the women,” she said. [H]