By Abhishek Jha for Youth Ki Awaaz:
Note: The data in this article has been taken from the answers provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Women and Child Development in the Rajya Sabha.
In 2013, a Nirbhaya Fund was set up by the then UPA government as a corpus in the Public Account in the Department of Economic Affairs after the massive outrage against the gang-rape of a student in Delhi 2012. Each fiscal year since then Rs. 1000 crore have been allocated to the fund every year. However, the allocation of the total Rs. 3000 crore for various schemes has been tardy and the spending on those schemes even slower according to the government’s own replies in the parliament.
In the fiscal year 2013-2014, one proposal was made by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, and the Ministry of Railways each. Two such projects- one for responding with the help of GPS to distress calls from women by the MHA and another for “GPS tracking of the location of, emergency buttons in and video recording of incidents in public transport vehicles” by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways – had been approved by the Union Cabinet in the months of January and February 2014.
However, until 9th July 2014, nothing had been spent from the allocated Rs. 321.69 crores for the project of responding to distress calls which is called the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) platform. “Funds are yet to be allocated under the appropriate head to initiate expenditure. Hence no project activities could take place,” Kiren Rijiju, the Minister of State for Home Affairs said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha on 9th July last year. Centre of Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) Thiruvananthapuram had developed an electronic Personal Safety System (ePSS) by then though, according to the Minister’s reply.
Until early this year, Kiren Rijiju still did not have any better answers for the parliament. In another written reply he furnished before the Rajya Sabha, he accepted in the parliament on 11th March this year that there “has been a minor delay in the implementation of the project because the preparatory activities could not be initiated in time” and that a Project Management Consultant (PMC) had been appointed and discussion with the states and UTs begun.
In April this year, the government issued further guidelines for Administration and Operationalization of ‘Nirbhaya Fund’. According to these guidelines, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) is now the nodal authority for appraisal of schemes to be financed from the fund. The MWCD now forwards these proposals to the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) which with the approval of the Finance Minister finally approves the withdrawal from the fund by any ministry or department. The MWCD along with the ministry or department making the withdrawal reviews and monitors the progress of these schemes.
The same press release announcing the new guidelines states that only Rs. 200 crore had been allotted to various schemes under the Nirbhaya Fund in the General Budget 2014-2015. Rs. 150 crore had been approved for a scheme by the MHA “on backend integration of distress signal from victims with mobile vans and control rooms” and Rs. 50 crore for a scheme by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways on “Women Safety on Public Road Transport”. It will be worthy to note here that the scheme on “GPS tracking of the location of, emergency buttons in and video recording of incidents in public transport vehicles,” with an estimated cost of Rs. 14068 crore, was to be implemented within a period of two years and had been approved by the Cabinet in January 2014. The appraisal of mere Rs. 50 crore from the fund in the fiscal year 2014-2015 for the Ministry of Road Transport, which is to implement an over 1000 crore project in two years, does not make sense. Moreover, Maneka Gandhi, the Minister of Women and Child Development had no answer as to how much of disbursed amount had been utilised when asked so in the Parliament in April this year.
Two schemes administered by the Ministry of Women and Child Development were approved for the year 2015-2016. The One Stop Centre for Women affected by violence has a total project cost of Rs. 18.58 crore and the Scheme for Universalisation of Women Helpline has the project cost of Rs. 69.49 crore. However, as of this month funds amounting to Rs. 10.71 crore have been released for One Stop Centres to various states, although there numbers were slashed from a proposed 660 to 36. Only 6 of these One Stop Centres have been set up though, one each in Raipur (Chhattisgarh), Vijayawada City (Andhra Pradesh), Karnal (Haryana), Bhubaneswar (Odisha), Jaipur (Rajasthan) and Chandigarh. However, only Rs. 13.92 crore out of the approved Rs. 69.49 crore have been sanctioned for the Women Helpline scheme as of this month.
A good sign, however, has been the appraisal of a Rs. 200 crore Central Victim Compensation Fund (CVCF) out of the Nirbhaya Fund to support states/UT administrations for the implementation of victim compensation. A Rs. 324 crore scheme also been appraised by the MWCD for creation of Investigative Units for Crime Against Women (IUCAW). However, whether these schemes too will drag on indefinitely like the other schemes or whether these funds will be actually utilized remains to be seen.