JAMMU: The only working women hostel in the State, constructed with the Central funding to facilitate the members of the fair-sex of the society, has been grabbed by some Government departments, depriving helpless women of the facility for the last 10 long years.
Constructed with the cost of Rs 1.12 crore this three-storey building, comprising of nearly 40 rooms at Roop Nagar on Muthi Road in Jammu city, was inaugurated by the then Social Welfare Minister Mula Ram with great fan- fare in 2004-05. The building having capacity of accommodating 120 inmates, was handed over to the State Social Welfare of the department by the R&B in 2004. The then Government had also given wider publicity taking credit that first ever such facility created in the State for the working women for which the funds had been provided by the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
While projecting the purpose, it was then also highlighted that the women especially from far- flung areas like Doda, Kishtwar, Bhaderwah, Poonch, Rajouri, Ramban, Kathua besides other parts of Kashmir and Ladakh, who are working in Jammu have to face lot of problems in terms of accommodation. Such ladies will be accommodated in this hostel as security and safety was the main concern for them. Like other major cities of the country, a hostel facility was provided for such women at Roop Nagar in Jammu.
It was also felt that many women under ICDS projects have to undergo training for 2-3 months in Jammu. These helpless women have to look for private rented accommodation which is very costly for them. But even after the construction of this building and handing it over to Social Welfare Department about 10 years ago, the hostel was not made functional till date. Reason is clear, the building which was constructed for the ‘welfare’ of the women has been encroached upon by the State Social Welfare Department. They have been running their 3-4 offices from this building complex for the last many years and saving their rent. They never bothered to shift offices to some where else or raise own building in last many years. Till today, a large board at the main gate indicating Working Women Hostel has been raised there. It has been learnt that another office of Revenue Department with the creation of new administrative units, is being housed in the same building.
Unfortunately, the Minister for Social Welfare, who is also a woman (Sakina Itto), in her nearly six years tenure as Minister, also turned a Nelson’s eye towards the sufferings of the members of fair-sex and did nothing to get this hostel vacated for her ‘sisters’. Moreover, not even a single woman legislator (MLA/MLC) ever raised voice for the women in the House for this cause. Earlier, the senior officers of department had the plea that rules have not been framed for the Hostel but even after framing of rules and even posting of warden there, the hostel could not be made functional. The department is saving its nearly Rs 2 lakh per month rent by grabbing this building.
Sources said that even one Sonali Gupta was appointed as Warden of this hostel few years back, after her promotion, then another woman officer of the department Sadhna Jamwal was posted as Warden of this hostel. But except only warden, no other staff was ever appointed. A committee headed by Director SWD Jammu was also framed for running hostel, which did no service to the women. The building construction has been raised like a hostel, having long verandas and adjoining rooms. A dining hall, mess, recreation hall, common bath rooms have been constructed for serving the purpose of the hostel inmates.
Former Social Welfare Minister Mula Ram said for the expansion of existing Civil Secretariat at Jammu, the old building of the department behind Secretariat was razed about four years back. For emergency purpose, the Directorate was shifted to Women Hostel at Roop Nagar for some time. But it should have been vacated and even the department should go for some private building till its own building not constructed. The purpose of raising this building should not be diluted. Mula Ram recalled that he had inaugurated this building when he was Minister of this department and wanted to see this hostel functional soon.
Former Principal of Women College Parade (Jammu) and a noted social activist Prof Rita Jitender described this move of the Government for depriving State women of the hostel facility as very unfortunate. She said it is again surprising and even shocking that a woman minister is incharge of this department and the women are deprived of this facility.
Another former Jammu University Professor/ HoD and a noted social activist, Prof Ved Kumari Ghai took strong note of this issue and said that the real purpose of this building has been defeated. She said the women organizations would fight for getting this hostel vacated from the Government departments.
Commissioner/ Secretary Social Welfare department, M S Rather when contacted said that he had visited the Directorate of Social Welfare Department at Roop Nagar in Jammu. “I saw board of working women hostel erected there. I asked the director and other officers to shift their offices to the private buildings shortly so that hostel could function there. I am ceased of the matter and the Director’s office would be shifted to private building shortly. I admit honestly that injustice is being meted out to the women of the State,” Mr Rather maintained.