40 percent of the 3,000-crore fund remains unutilised
GN Bureau | May 27, 2016
The Nirbhaya Fund was announced by the government in its 2013 union budget with a corpus of Rs 1,000 crore. According to then finance minister, P. Chidambaram, this fund was expected to support initiatives by the government and NGOs working towards protecting the dignity and ensuring safety of women in India.
A committee comprising officials from various ministries, including women and child development, home affairs, road transport and railways, had been constituted to approve schemes proposed under the Nirbhaya Fund.
In April 2015, the government made the women and child development ministry (WCD) the nodal agency for the Nirbhaya Fund in place of the Home Ministry, which utilised only one percent of the funds.
It was decided that the department of economic affairs under the finance ministry will look at financial appraisals of the funds released for the various schemes.
The Nirbhaya Fund now has a total amount of Rs 3,000 crore. Earlier in 2014-15 and 2015-16, Rs 1,000 crore each was allocated to the Rs 1,000 crore initial corpus. The home ministry, however, had sanctioned schemes worth just Rs 200 crore.
It was a parliamentary standing committee report that drew attention to the under-utilisation of the funds, saying that most of the money is lying idle.
The report, headed by BJP leader from Madhya Pradesh Satyanarayan Jatia, said, “It has been brought to the notice of the Committee that for the past 3 to 4 years, almost all the funds are lying idle. It is a complete irony that on one hand, crimes, against women are on the rise and on the other, funds allotted to tackle this issue has remained un-utilised.”
In the same month that WCD ministry was made the nodal agency, it had envisaged installing panic buttons in cellphones, setting up CCTV cameras and GPS tracking in public transport and employing women conductors, among other measures, but most of these remain a distant dream three years later.
Under the Nirbhaya Fund, the two funds that have actually taken off include the universal women's helpline and the one stop crisis centres (OSCC).
It should be noted that when the OSCC was announced, WCD ministry wanted the centre to be present in every district. However, only one centre in every state was formed. The committee report notes that there are only eight operational centres.
The report also notes that under the OSCC, of the Rs 18.58 crore approved for 2016-17, only Rs 10.17 crore was allotted. Moreover under the helpline, Rs 69.49 crore was approved, and an amount of Rs 15.46 crore was released. The remaining Rs 400 crore has been earmarked for other schemes and the ministry is still deciding whether to use the funds for existing schemes or to propose new ones.
On May 26, 2016, the supreme court asked the centre to formulate a national policy for providing adequate relief to rape survivors. The apex court also said that setting up a separate fund like the 'Nirbhaya Fund' would not be enough and that it amounted to “just a lip service”.
“Different states have different schemes. There is no national plan as how the rape victims are to be compensated. Setting up of the Nirbhaya Fund is not enough and it is just paying a lip service. The Union of India must ensure that adequate relief is being provided to the victims of sexual offences,” a vacation bench of Justices P C Pant and D Y Chandrachud said.
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