Jharkhand Police's Shakti app for women safety doesn't work; call 100 or 112, says police

Recently, a 16-year-old girl from Dumka, was set on fire by her stalker and killed. A couple of days later, a minor girl who was four months pregnant was found dead and hanging from a tree in Dumka. The Jharkhand Police had launched a mobile application Shakti to help women in distress, but the app is not functioning and few even know of its existence.

Manoj ChoudharyManoj Choudhary   23 Sep 2022 1:42 PM GMT

Jharkhand Polices Shakti app for women safety doesnt work; call 100 or 112, says police

Despite launching various schemes, gruesome crimes against girls and women continue. All photos: By arrangement

Ranchi, Jharkhand

Two years ago, Anjali Singh, a student then at Karim City College in Jamshedpur in Jharkhand, was stalked as she made her way from her college to her home or elsewhere. But, fortunately for her, the stalker for some reason decided to give up on her.

"But even now, I can't shake off the feeling that someone is following me all the time. I live in fear," she told Gaon Connection.

Anjali was lucky that she lived to tell her tale. Not so a 16-year-old girl from Jaruadih in Dumka district of the state, who died an excruciating death on August 28, last month, at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi.

Her stalker followed her home and set fire to her by pouring kerosene on her on August 26 night. Protests against this heinous incident erupted across the state with demands that the perpetrator of the crime be punished.

The 16-year-old girl from Jaruadih who died an excruciating death on August 28, last month in Ranchi.

After the 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder, commonly known as the Nirbhaya case, state after state announced projects and allocated funds to ensure women safety. Various women safety programmes and schemes were kicked off in Jharkhand, too, including an android based mobile application (an app) called Shakti, which was launched by Jharkhand Police as far back as March 2016.

However, a quick check by Gaon Connection found that the Shakti app is dysfunctional and cannot even be downloaded. A vast majority of girls and women in the state were also unaware of this app.

Further, till July 2021, Jharkhand received Rs 60.28 crore funds under the Nirbhaya scheme of the central government. Of this, it had utilised slightly less than half the money (Rs 29.16 crore, or 48 per cent).

Also Read: 1/3rd of Nirbhaya fund remains unspent despite increase in rape cases in India

Meanwhile, earlier this month, on September 2, another tribal girl, a minor, from Ranishwar area in Dumka district, was found hanging from a tree. She too was reportedly raped and then strung up. A postmortem revealed the girl was four months pregnant. The police arrested the accused.

India is no stranger to crimes against women, more so in rural areas where often such cases go unreported. Despite launching various schemes, mobile apps, WhatsApp groups and toll free numbers, gruesome crimes against girls and women continue.

Mobile app, toll free number, WhatsApp groups – but do they work?

According to the state police department, there are several measures being undertaken to offer protection to women. Other than calling 100 and 112 numbers, in March 2016, the state police launched Shakti app.

"Through the Shakti mobile app, a girl can alert the police and they will reach the incident site within a couple of minutes," Arvind Kumar Singh, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Special Branch, in West Singhbhum, Jharkhand, told Gaon Connection. "Once a girl opens the app in her cell phone, the nearest police station gets a call from the phone and through location tracing of the said phone, police reach the spot," he explained.

However, on being apprised by Gaon Connection of the non-working status of the Shakti app, DSP Arvind Kumar Singh said that the "matter will be reported to senior officials".

Meanwhile, several women seemed unaware of the Shakti app, but felt such a mobile application can be useful for women in distress.

Also Read: 63.8% said women don't feel safe post sunset: Gaon Connection Survey

Protests against the August 26 heinous incident erupted across the state with demands that the perpetrator of the crime should be arrested.

Sunaina Kumari had heard about the Shakti app, but said she had not downloaded it. "We prefer to call at 100 while facing security threats and other related problems. And, very few women are aware about any app launched by the State police," the resident of Childat in Angara, Ranchi, told Gaon Connection.

Archana Choudhary, a staffer at the Jamshedpur Women's University said that she had not heard of Shakti App, but was using another one called 'Panic app'. "I wish the police would promote the app better; it would help so many women," Archana told Gaon Connection.

More recently, in January 2020, the Jharkhand police launched the Twitter account 'Mahila Helpline Jharkhand' asking women in distress to call 9771432103 or dial 100 for help. Also, each district in the state has a separate WhatsApp number that women can call for protection.

But, how often are these helplines dialled?

"Only three to four cases of crimes against women are being registered in Jamshedpur through the helplines," Animesh Gupta, DSP at the Crime Control Room in Jamshedpur, told Gaon Connection. According to him, the local police rush to the site when it receives distress calls on 100 and 112 numbers.

While the police respond to calls made to them, according to DSP Arvind Kumar Singh, only about 40 per cent of women actually come forward to seek police help. "Most women usually avoid getting involved with the police," he said.

Also Read: Lakhimpur Kheri rape-murder: Minor girls' bodies buried after kins assured of compensation, strict punishment to accused

"Often it is due to family pressure that girls avoid taking legal action against their stalkers," Ranjana Mishra, an advocate based in Jamshedpur, told Gaon Connection.

"Usually the families settle for out-of-court compromise. If the girl is to be married, the family does not want to take on any legal burden. The family settles for a compromise after taking compensation from the accused. But, girls should come forward to continue their fight against atrocities to set an example to others and convince women not to tolerate crime," Mishra said.

"For most people in the rural areas, seeking legal recourse is expensive, time consuming and they do not have the means or the wherewithal to make multiple trips to police stations and courts," Jyotsana Tirkey, women rights' activist in the Ho tribe populated West Singhbhum district, told Gaon Connection.

Crime against women in Jharkhand

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in 2018, Jharkhand saw 7,083 cases of crimes against women being registered. This comes to 20 such cases every day, which is only the tip of the iceberg as a large number of cases are never reported and officially documented.

The following year in 2019, the number increased to 8,760. The number of registered crimes came down somewhat in 2020, but probably on account of the lockdown when women stayed indoors, and it stood at 7,630. But, in 2021 it jumped again to 8,110 cases.

In 2020, there were 7,600 people who were arrested in crimes against women in Jharkhand. Of them 1,111 were acquitted and 1,081 were convicted. The rest were still under trial. The data for 2021 is not available.

While there is no let up of crimes against women in rural areas of the state, the cases are not usually brought to the notice of the police.

"The people in rural areas set more in store by the justice they believe their panchayats will deliver," women rights' activist Tirkey said. "Instead of going to the police station, the victim's family members present their case to the village panchayat," she said.

Also Read: Time to hang our heads in shame. Once again.

Spreading awareness on women safety

According to DSP Arvind Kumar Singh, in an effort to spread awareness about protection against crimes, the police have installed boxes in girl's schools and colleges, where they can drop their complaint against any harassment or atrocities they are facing.

"The police then retrieve the complaints from the boxes at regular intervals and take action to redress their grievances. But victims should come forward to the police for justice," Singh reiterated.

The Jamshedpur DSP, Animesh Gupta, said there were regular awareness drives in girls schools and colleges where they were told about the safety provisions that they could use if they felt threatened or were in danger. Radio is also being used to spread the word.

Only legal action is not enough to stem the rot of women harassment, said advocate Mishra. She said that it is the responsibility of each member of society to drive home the importance of respecting women. "If this is done, the crimes against women can be controlled," she said.

If you are in distress or feel unsafe, please call on +91-97714-32103 or Dial 100 for help.

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