CHENNAI: Close to 500 staff employed under contract at Tamil Nadu’s 38 one-stop centres (OSC), which assist women in crisis, have gone without salary for six months now. Worse, the administrators of the OSCs have been forced to dip into their own pockets to meet the basic expenses of the centres, including paying the electricity bills and providing clothes and food for the affected women.
The centres are fully funded by the union government under the Sambal sub-scheme of the Mission Shakti scheme and aim to provide all required for survivors of gender-based violence (legal and medical) under one roof. Thirty-eight OSCs operate out of district headquarters and plans are on to increase the number of centres in densely populated areas. Each centre has a staff of 13, including a senior counsellor and six case workers, and is sanctioned around Rs 2.5 lakh a month, sources said.
However, staff from five districts told TNIE funds had not been released for months. “In some districts, funds are pending for 16 months and we are unable to help the women approaching us. Earlier, we were spending from our own pockets but that has become impossible now, forcing some to even leave the job,” one OSC staff said.
“We used to rescue women facing domestic violence and other problems from remote areas. But now with neither funds nor free bus services to these places, we are unable to help now,” the staff member said.
The administrator of an OSC said the situation was so bad that some social workers even faced violence from their families for working without salary.
We are made to work for other schemes: OSC staff
“As social workers, we can work long hours for little money. But many of the families of the staff don’t believe the funds haven’t arrived. Some have even been beaten up by their family members. How long will the families let these women work without remuneration,” the administrator asked.
Staff told TNIE that in some districts, the district social welfare (DSW) department staff pressure the OS C to do their work. “Most of the OS Cs are on the premises of government hospitals. But we are forced to be at the DSW office and even provide counselling to victims there even though there is a private room for counselling with all facilities.
They also make us work for other schemes and say we wouldn’t get our salaries without their mercy. We have to fight them each day to go to the ground and do our work,” said an OSC staff. The staff claimed the funds have not been released due to delays in clearing utilisation certificates and statements of expenses at multiple levels, including by district collectors.
A collector said all paperwork are cleared from the district but the funds had not been released. Another said he would look into the matter. The paper work has to be sent from the districts to the state social welfare department which forwards them to the Union government.
A top official in the social welfare department said utilisation certificates were sent to the union government in November and the department is following it up. “We are also making interim arrangements so there is no delay in payment of emoluments to the staff henceforth,” he added. Social welfare minister Geetha Jeevan said she will look into the matter.
‘Paperwork was sent to union govt in November’
A top official in the Tamil Nadu social welfare department told TNIE that utilisation certificates had been sent to the union government in November 2022 and the department is following it up.