The Delhi Commission for Women has decided to shut down its 181 women helpline, rape crisis cell and mobile helpline, among other programmes, citing non-payment of salaries to its staff for two months. In a statement released on Friday, DCW chairperson Swati Maliwal (pictured above) alleged that newly appointed member secretary Alka Diwan “refused to release two months’ salary to the contractual staff”. Maliwal also questioned Diwan’s appointment, The Indian Express reported.

Maliwal said the DCW’s workload had increased manifold. She said the commission “dealt with 11,696 complaints and handled 2.16 lakh calls through its 181 women’s helpline in the past six months”. “5,733 cases have been dealt by the rape crisis cell lawyers in courts since the expansion of the cell, 1,869 sexual assault cases were dealt by crisis intervention centre counsellors and the commission has undertaken over 7,500 visits since its revamp,” she said.

She said the commission had given more than 55 recommendations for recruitment to the government in the past year, but the proposals were still pending for approval. Maliwal said the DCW had to make short-term appointments as a stop-gap measure to deal with the workload. “It [DCW] even ensured that all staffers work on Saturdays to aid the distressed women of Delhi,” the statement read.

Maliwal said most of their staff members were acid attack survivors, dowry harassment survivors and orphans from Nari Niketan. “Non-payment of salaries to the staff would result in stopping of programmes as the staff come from vulnerable backgrounds and cannot afford to work for long without salaries,” she said. Most of the DCW employees who have not received their salaries for the past two months earn less than Rs 25,000, with only 10 women earning more than Rs 35,000.