Another storm is brewing between the Delhi government and Lieutenant Governor (LG) Najeeb Jung's office. And yet again, AAP member and Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chairperson Swati Mali is in the midst of it.
According to Maliwal, 95 contractual employees of DCW's 181 helpline for women in distress are yet to receive their salaries for the last two months.
Various members of the Delhi government spoke to Catch over the last two days and have just one thing say: The LG's office is trying to shut down the 181 helpline.
"The attack is on the entire commission. Because we're asking questions, raising issues. We're no longer a silent body we used to be," DCW chairperson Swati Maliwal tells Catch.
Out of the 95 contractual employees of the DCW helpine, 79 are receiving less than Rs 25,000 as salary. Many of these employees are victims of acid attacks, dowry cases, orphans from Nari Niketan. Some are single women running their families with their salaries.
Over the last 20 years, the DCW has been paying salaries to its staffers. After AAP came into power, the commission requested the LG's office to provide more employees in October 2016.
"In the past, whenever the commission required staff, the government (LG's office) would provide it. But now, the government did not give us staff. Hence, we made short-term emergent appointments," says Maliwal.
About 20 days ago, the LG's office appointed a new member secretary to the commission - Alka Diwan.
Diwan, an IAS officer, who is already a serving officer in the Delhi government, was given the additional charge of DCW as a part-time member.
The DCW chairman tells us that the appointment is illegal. "There is no provision in the current acts which mentions the appointment of the part-time member. Also, the Chief Minister or any other elected representative of the state has not been consulted in the appointment," she says.
"Our fight is with larger powers, but it has been presented in such a way that it seems to be a fight within the DCW. We've also requested the Diwan to put a dissent note if they do not agree with our demands or views," she adds.
In the last six months, the DCW claims to have dealt with 11,696 complaints, handled 2.16 lakh calls through its helpline. "And 5,733 cases have been dealt with by the Rape Crisis Lawyers in courts since its expansion, 1,869 sexual assault cases dealt with by Crisis Intervention Centre counsellors and over 7,500 visits undertaken by the Commission since its revamp," read a statement released by DCW last week.
A tug of war over DCW's autonomy?
"From the moment she (Alka Diwan) has arrived, all requests forwarded by the commission has been repeatedly and categorically thwarted. And then, they stopped the release of employees' salary. The attack is on the autonomy of the commission," says Maliwal.
When Catch got in touch with the LG's office, we were told the DCW comes under the jurisdiction of the state's Department of Women and Child Development. Repeated attempts to get in touch with Alka Diwan also failed.
Maliwal claims that the LG's office wants the DCW to take every action in consultation or permission with the LG's office. "But if we consult the LG's office for everything, then we can't question the government. We cannot fulfill our mandate of monitoring the government," she explains.
Over the past few months, the DCW has been under the Anti-corruption Branch (ACB) scanner for alleged irregular appointments of 85 people, out of which 90% are from AAP party. The DCW chairperson has denied these allegations.
Edited by Aishwarya Yerra