By Shikha Sreenivas
The Rs 1,000 crore allocated by the government in the union budget for women’s safety and security in the ‘Nirbhaya fund’, has gone unspent for another year. In the last two years, reportedly, the NDA government has failed to come up with any successfully implemented schemes for expenditure from this fund.
The ‘Nirbhaya fund’ that was created in 2013 by the UPA government, after the gang rape of Jyothi Singh Pandey in Delhi threw up several questions about the state of women’s safety and security in the country. The NDA government has continued allocating this fund every year, but has failed to spend it.
When the fund was announced, the then Finance Minister, P Chidambaram, said that it was going to support initiatives of the government and NGOs to protect the dignity and ensure the safety of women in India. But in the last two budgets, while continuing the allocation of Rs. 1,000 crore towards this fund, the NDA government has not come up with any scheme that had made use of these funds. Reportedly, none of the NGOs working for safety of women have been shortlisted in the last three years to use these funds.
Two schemes were proposed under the fund, a Rs. 653 crore scheme for the “safety of women on public road transport”, and another Rs. 79.5 crore scheme under the home ministry. The Hindustan Times reports that neither of these schemes were implemented. In the 2016 budget, two projects were proposed — for employment and rehabilitation of manual scavengers and development of road connectivity in Naxal affected areas, but these two also did not take off.
In May 2016, the Supreme Court of India questioned the underuse of the national women’s safety fund, and said the NDA government was paying only “lip service” to solving the problems of women’s security in India. A bench of Justices Prafulla C Pant and DY Chandrachud said the Centre should devolve the fund to state and district level use. But in spite of the rebuke from the Supreme Court, the Centre has failed to formulate an effective plan for the fund.
The Hindustan Times has reported an analysis of the scheme done by a Delhi-based NGO called “Centre for Development and Human Rights” which said the delay is the because of the “lengthy inter-ministerial coordination that is needed for approval of a project under the scheme”.
Last year, Feminism in India looked closely at what the Nirbhaya fund has been used for in the last 4 years, and how many schemes were failed to be implemented completely. In August 2016, A Central Victim’s Compensation Fund with Rs. 200 crore was set up at the state and district level, to provide compensation to those who have faced sexual violence. Apparently, Karnataka has not drawn from the fund even once.
Only a handful of schemes have been proposed under the Nirbhaya Fund, none of which were well planned or fully executed. The Justice Verma Committee Report itself contains several issues around which schemes can be implemented. The failure to fully implement so many schemes over the years, and to not be able to shortlist NGOs, goes to show the lack of prioritisation on the government’s part.
We only hope that the Union Budget 2017 (1st February) will contain a more concrete plan for the implementation of this fund.