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LAHORE: The Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) and the Social Welfare and Bait-ul-Maal (SW&BM) Punjab are jointly going to install surveillance system in Darul Amans across Punjab with a prime focus to increase security measures and ending the phenomenon/complaints of "illegal meetings" with women seeking temporary shelter in the government-run facility.

In this regard, the Punjab government has approved release of a hefty amount for undertaking various developmental projects out of which Rs10.5 million would be spent on the installation and procurement of the surveillance system.

According to a document available with the Business Recorder, the entire procurement process would be carried out by the PITB and it will be spending Rs6.5 million on the procurement of CCTV cameras and Rs4 million on the Centre Monitoring System (Video Wall).

An official privy to the information told this scribe that the SW&BM Punjab had been receiving complaints from across Punjab regarding illegal meetings with women at Darul Amans after official hours. The official, who requested not to be named, said that there are around 36 Darul Amans across Punjab and each facility has a maximum capacity of accommodating 50 women (victims of violence) at a time.

"Not too long ago, the SW&BM had received complaints of illegal meetings with women at Darul Aman Lahore after official hours. The department had been receiving such complaints from other Darul Amans in far-flung districts of the province but when the issue surfaced in Lahore, all the concerned quarters got surprised and decided to chalk out a counter strategy," the official explained in response to a query.

Later on, the department decided to replace the in-charge (supervisor) of Darul Amans with lady officers, the official said while explaining that they have to seek help of police in maintaining security and the "presence of any male member" provides a lot of room to indulge in malpractices.

Responding to a query, the official negated the impression that mostly women with tainted character seek shelter at Darul Amans and said that in 90 percent cases women seek shelter after facing any type of violence. "However, taking advantage of growing needs, particularly greediness for a better lifestyle, the police officials deputed at Darul Amans allow women to meet "people of their choice" or force them in several ways to do so," the official claimed.

The official said that after the installation of surveillance system, the concerned officers at divisional level and deputy director and director general of the SW&BM Punjab would have access to the system and they can see CCTV footage with just a click away.

"But considering the low salary of the government employees including senior officers and growing materialistic needs of the people in this era of skyrocketing inflation, everyone wants to have a better lifestyle for which many people do not care about their source of earning. So, ending illegal meetings at Darul Amans would not be an easy task because people always find a new way of dodging," the official added.

In 2019, Superintendent of Kashana (home for destitute girls) Lahore Afshan Latif had alleged that the government-run facility was being used to "supply" young girls and women - ostensibly for marriage - to several senior government functionaries in Punjab. She had claimed to have CCTV footage of unidentified men entering the premises and residents' bedrooms as "prospective suitors".

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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