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Project Pallikoodam Helping Coimbatore Police to Assist Child Abuse Survivors and Nab Abusers

Project Pallikoodam, which was started in Coimbatore by SP (Rural) V Badrinarayanan, is bringing hidden child abuse cases to light Police constables are being trained and sent to schools and localities to spread awareness and identify POCSO cases The project aims at breaking the barrier of hesitancy among girl children and helping them to open up about any abuse
Indian Masterminds Stories

According to a government survey, around 53 percent children in India face some kind of abuse. Child sexual abuse is a major cause for concern as it not only impacts the children physically but also traumatize them mentally all their lives.

Taking this into consideration, an initiative has been taken by the Coimbatore District Police this year under ‘Project Pallikoodam’, through which, child abuse cases are being brought to light and the culprits are being booked.

Since the launch of the project on 30 June, 2022, the district police have solved eight cases related to POCSO and has also been spreading awareness about child abuse in the schools of Coimbatore.

HOW IT STARTED

Speaking to Indian Masterminds, SP (Rural) Coimbatore, V Badrinarayanan, said “When I reported in Coimbatore in March, there were several POCSO cases which were being reported and arrests were being made. So, we thought of addressing this issue in a two-pronged way. First, speed up the investigation in these cases, and second, increase awareness among the children about abuse. When we looked into the POCSO cases, we found that most of the victims were under 12 years of age. Also, only The the things which the victim tells the police were being recorded. There are several other things which the children themselves are not aware of and are missing from the report.”

Therefore, under Project Pallikoodam, the police planned to reach each and every child directly in the district, and that too in a very systematic way. First hotspots were identified where maximum cases were being reported after which the police reached out to the localities and schools of that particular area. Similarly, by targeting one hotspot at one time, the police tried to cover the whole area under it.

REACHING OUT DIRECTLY TO CHILDREN

Under Project Pallikoodam, the police proposed to cover 997 Schools across 6 Police Sub Divisions of Coimbatore district in coordination with the school education department. Under each police sub-division, a preliminary day zero programme was conducted with the Headmistresses/Headmasters, Assistant Head Mistresses/Headmasters and Physical Education teachers, where each and every aspect of the programme is explained.

After this Preliminary Meeting, trained Police Constables donning the role of Women Help Desk Officers or Child Welfare Officers are mandated to visit the schools with an aim of educating each and every child from the age of 5 to 18. The children are divided into 3 independent groups for imparting awareness, including children below 10 years of age, girls above 10 years of age, and boys above 10 years of age.

Mr. Badrinarayanan said, “We designed a course system which was imparted to the children and we selected around 70 constables who will be trained at the headquarters and will be sent to reach out to the children. After we started conducting these awareness sessions, many elopement cases also started coming in, where minor girls and boys decided to elope together and marry. That is an offence as they are below 18 years of age. Therefore, modules on why that is wrong were also conducted by the constables.”

As of date, the police, with excellent support from the school education department, has reached around 780 Schools and over 1 lakh students. Apart from sexual abuse, many other cases of abuse have also come to light, where children have opened up about 67 instances related to family issues, stalking, eve teasing, students’ indiscipline, drug or tobacco sales information, cyber related issues, etc.

CASES

Because of the project, eight crimes/cases have come up which were till now hidden. All these eight cases are either related to molestation or harassment. In one case, the victim girl, a class 10th student who had an affair with a 21-year-old boy, was sexually abused by him with false marriage promise. The boy got married to someone else but still compelled the girl for sexual relationship. The girl approached police after the awareness programme.

Similarly, during another such programme, the victim girl, a 11th standard student, came to the women police conducting the programme about sexual harassment by her stepfather (46 yrs old). She revealed that the accused have been misbehaving and molesting her for the past 7 months.

Another case of harassment came from government middle school where a total of 15 girls aged between 9 to 13 years complained about a nearby grocery shop owner (62 yrs), who used to abuse the girls when they go to his shop. The complaint was made to a constable who was part of a team conducting the programme in their school.

Through this project, the main aim of the police is to break the barrier of any hesitation in children of addressing the issue. They want the children to open up so that the police can nab the culprit.

Similarly, counselling sessions are also given to the parents of the victims on how to handle such situations and how they can help their children in addressing the issues which they could be silently facing in their personal lives.


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