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No Lessons Learnt: What Happened to Nirbhaya Fund

Representative image.

Representative image.

The fund, which now has a total amount of Rs 3,000 crore, hasn’t seen as enthusiastic utilization as expected.

New Delhi: After more than four years long legal battle, all the four adult accused in gangrape and murder of 23-year-old paramedical student, famous as Nirbhaya case, were awarded death sentence by the Supreme Court on Friday.

While one adult accused in the case had allegedly committed suicide in jail, another accused, a minor, was held guilty under the relevant law. In December 2012, the victim was gangraped and brutally tortured by six men, leading to her death days later.

This had led to massive protests in New Delhi, triggering a series of legislative and legal reforms. Among them was a corpus fund, named Nirbhaya Fund, to improvise infrastructure and systems for women safety.

The fund, which now has a total amount of Rs 3,000 crore, hasn’t seen as enthusiastic utilization as expected.

Earlier this year, in January, a statement from the ministry of women and child development said 18 proposals were received. “Under Nirbhaya Fund, 18 proposals amounting to Rs 2195.97 crore have been received so far, out of which 16 proposals amounting to Rs 2187.47 crore have been appraised and recommended by the Empowered Committee,” it said. The ministry rubbished the reports of under utilization of funds.

Schemes under the Nirbhaya Fund

The ministry said three schemes, ‘One-stop Centre’, ‘Universalisation of Women Helpline’ and ‘Mahila Police Volunteer’ were initiated. The One-stop Centres, called Sakhi, aim at facilitating women who have been affected by violence. So far, 186 OSCs have been approved, and 121 are operational. All the centres, the ministry said, are expected to be operational by July.

The universal helpline number, 181, was allocated to all states and Union territories. Mahila Police Volunteers (MPVs), the ministry said, will act as a link between the police and the community and help women in distress. Haryana has become the first state to start the Mahila Police Volunteer scheme.

The government also recently released Rs 500 crore to the Railways to enhance surveillance on stations and in the ladies coaches of trains.

Bureaucratic loopholes

Last year, a parliamentary standing committee slammed the ministry of women and child development over the slow implementation of schemes under the Nirbhaya Fund.

A report by Centre for Development and Human Rights (CDHR) stated that lengthy inter-ministerial coordination for project approval had created problems in implementation of Nirbhaya Fund schemes. The central government, then made the ministry of women and child development the nodal authority on this to expedite the process of implementation.

Speaking to News18, Manoj Arora, secretary to women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi, said the implementation was not in the ambit of the ministry. “There are other ministries that have proposed schemes. We release funds to them, when they ask for it and when their schemes are approved. The implementation of the same is their scope of work,” said Arora.

Real picture dismal?

One of key component was the Central Victim Compensation Fund, which is a corpus fund of Rs 200 crore. Years after it was set up, the fund still has to see the light of the day. The Delhi High Court recently rapped the state government over the ‘lack of resources’, which led to 300 pending claims. Lack of political will has ensured that the funds remain underutilized.

The Mahila Police Volunteer scheme was launched in Karnal last year, and other states, the ministry says, will implement the scheme soon.

Finally, according to the ministry, the expenditure incurred, as of January 2017, was just Rs 400 crore.

The ministry has in as many words stated that most of the schemes are still in the planning stage and yet to be implemented.