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Vijay Shekhar Sharma & Dr Ritesh Malik Backed Social Impact Initiative Saves Lives During Corona Lockdown

Vijay Shekhar Sharma (Founder & CEO- Paytm) and Dr Ritesh Malik (Founder- Innov8) backed social impact initiative ‘Akancha Against Harassment’ proves to be a lifesaver for cyberattack victims during Corona Lockdown.

‘Akancha Against Harassment’ is India’s largest social Impact initiative against cyber harassment. They are uniquely supported by The Indian Police, IAS officers, entrepreneurs, entertainers and influencers from across fields. They currently engage with 120+ Million people digitally and work with over 50 senior IPS officers from across India.

Their AI-backed chat helpline created by Haptik won the Canada Fintech Award for applying AI to such a large social good.

While the initiative has been using technology and AI-enabled chat for reaching out to victims as well as education on the subject for the last 3 years, they have proven to be of critical importance during this lockdown.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma during a recent video for the initiative urged other tech entrepreneurs to come together for this cause. He spoke about how our increased dependency on the internet has given rise to cyber-crimes against all genders. It is imperative for us to educate and work together in building a safe India.

Due to increased use of internet in lockdown, cyber crimes spiked too, reaching their highest ever records of all times. Crimes like malicious emails, threats, sextortion, blackmails, child grooming, indecent exposures, fake charity, abuse - saw a manifold rise.

“Before lockdown, we were receiving about 10-12 ‘serious’ complaints in a day which needed immediate action. Since lockdown, we are seeing 22-25 serious complaints that need our immediate attention!” says Akancha Srivastava, Founder & Director of the initiative.

Crimes like sextortion and child grooming where somebody known to the child is involved in sexual indecency towards the kid on video calls is absolutely baffling to people since they may not have noticed it before. With so many online meeting apps being used extensively right now, it's also triggering new safety concerns that need our immediate attention. 

“We were never really prepared for a full digital adoption or work from home scenario so there are ambiguities in policies regarding the same. Video calls at odd hours, seniors making suggestive remarks on calls or shaming for having personal responsibilities, demand for work way beyond work hours, insecurity of job retention are some of the specific problems being faced by working women in this time. Women professionals are under tremendous pressure since they are unsure of complaining of this online harassment for fear of being looked upon as ‘trouble makers’”

COVID lockdown has seen newer ways of online abuse including phishing emails that look like donation calls but are actually a fraud. Malicious links might get access to your camera when clicked and your intimate moments might get captured unknowingly. If you make payments in a hurry without checking links properly, it might be a fraud organisation and you could lose money.

The initiative has handled over 1000 complaints from across the country in this regard and says that this is only a fraction of people who might understand that they are being harassed and have the courage and knowledge of how to report.

They have been widely acknowledged for this work under the unusually strenuous circumstances.

COVID lockdown also put a lot of pressure on law enforcement agencies. Criminals took advantage of this fact and knew that the police might take longer to respond. 

This is where the role of Akancha Against Harassment became critical. Through their network of high ranking officers across the country, they were able to address most complaints that came via their helpline in a timely manner. Some victims also feel more comfortable reaching out to them before approaching police due to fear of authorities.

In a recent release, Dr Ritesh Malik, advisor on the Foundation’s board said, “Covid19 in hindsight would be the most important attribute to digital adoption by conventional businesses which were resisting to change.” 

So what really is the path forward for us in this new digital dependent world?

These are the 3 pointers shared by the initiative:

Firstly, let’s accept that the world was always going to evolve into a technology-dependent place. COVID has simply accelerated that life cycle.

Secondly, technology is actually great. Just like cars are great. Cars don’t cause an accident, driving rash causes accidents. Similarly, mindful use of technology will prevent crimes.

Lastly, every single organisation/founder will need to come together in taking steps towards enabling a safe digital environment within their own organisation, via their product and services, contributing skills towards a larger cause. This pace belongs to everybody and it’s our responsibility to create a safe internet, free of harassment for all.



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