The Nari Niketans in Haryana are supposed to be safe-houses for women especially who have been suffering from some problem or have a sordid past of some sort. It could be that the women in a Nari Niketan may suffer from some mental issue, for instance a girl child who has lost her parents owing to some reason or the other. It could also be that the inmates had run away from their houses due to one reason or the other. Quite often victims of rape and other crimes are also provided shelter in the Nari Niketans because of judicial orders. The basic idea is to keep them safe and healthy from the society and life that they either have left behind or the one that has kicked them out.
However, in truth, the situation that most of the inmates may be facing at these supposed safe-houses is far from ideal. For example, one lady who had been hauled up at one of these Nari Niketans, owing to an order by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, happened to be a rape victim. In this incident, reported in the media during 2013, she had stated that she was ostracised because of her status as a rape victim. While this is saddening indeed, it is not unexpected considering the general psyche of the common people in Haryana. In a state where sex ratio is significantly skewed in favour of the men and where women are wronged and violated on a regular basis, this is only but natural.
Recently the Nari Niketan at Karnal has been in the news for wrong reasons when 3 inmates went missing. In another incident involving these shelter homes, a minor girl was kidnapped from a Nari Niketan named Aasha Niwas. During 2013, a couple of women, who had been staying at one of the Nari Niketans, were found to be hanging in their bathrooms. Incidentally one of them had been the victim of a gang-rape on 27 June 2013. In one incident a mentally challenged girl was raped by the very guards who were supposed to protect her.
The worst part is that one of these Nari Niketans is directly managed by the Women and Child Welfare department of the Haryana government, and still these things are happening! There are several questions that need to be asked of the government in these cases. The first is why are Nari Niketans where such incidents are happening not being blacklisted or terminated? After all, they may be either ineffectively organised or worse still, they could be in connivance with the criminals. None of the situations are desirable and need to be tackled head-on just a passive and usual governmental approach will not be sufficient.
Secondly, why are the guilty not being given exemplary punishment that could deter others from doing similar things. However, one feels that just punishment may not be the only way out. The government needs to assume direct control of these and also take greater responsibility in the process that would make sure that these social institutions serve their proper purpose.