The state's Social Welfare Department is working with the Tamil Nadu Infrastructure Fund Management Corporation (TNIFMC) to set up modern working women's hostels for all economic sections. The planning for the hostels has begun with the department stating that it has made safety of women its top priority. This comes after spy cameras were found in a private hostel in Chennai.
These hostels will cater to women from high income groups, middle income groups and economically backward. According to reports, studio apartments, two bed sharing rooms and six bed sharing rooms will be provided respectively. Currently there are 28 registered working women's hostels across the state and are located on lands owned or leased by the Social Welfare Department.
"The first step is to identify locations across the state for the hostels to be set up. Chennai, Madurai and Coimbatore definitely have demand for such hostels," says an official. "We are not saying that the government can fill the current gap that is available in terms of safe women's hostels but this is a step in that direction," he adds.
The department says that they will be looking to work with the private sector as well in the creation of these living spaces. Amongst the first tasks will be see where they can lease out land for the constructions. The criteria for choosing areas will include safety, transport facilities and proximity to working places.
It is reported that these hostels will include gymnasiums, entertainment bays, a creche and other facilities. Reports suggest that a special purpose vehicle will be formed to maintain and run the hostels.
"We are currently still in planning stages but it will definitely be more affordable and there will be safety for women. We are trying to see what will be an affordable model which follows all necessary standards," says the social welfare department official.
As for regulations in existing private hostels, the department is currently in discussion with the Chennai Collectorate to ensure all rules are followed.
On December 4, Chennai police arrested 48-year-old Sampath Raj, owner of a women's hostel in Aadambakkam, after they found that he had kept hidden cameras in several parts of the accommodation including the bathroom. Police inspected the hostel after they received a complaint from the women tenants on December 2.
On a thorough check of the premises, police found two cameras hidden in light bulbs, two on hangers and behind curtains in bedrooms and two in the bathrooms. The female tenants who were all working women were allegedly suspicious of the owner's hand in the matter as he would come to the lodging often, in the guise of checking the rooms. He placed the cameras in the name of carrying out renovation work in the house. He kept changing the position of the camera till he got a proper view. Following the incident, the Chennai Collectorate demanded that all private hostels get approval for functioning from the District Collector by December 31.