In the winter of 2012, a daughter of India was brutally gang raped by six monsters in a moving bus. She was tortured, penetrated with an iron rod and was thrown from the moving bus to die. All this happened in New Delhi, the capital of a country which is called the world’s largest democracy. Shame!
With her intestines removed to stop the infection from spreading, for 13 days, 23-year-old Jyoti Singh fought on but, on December 29, 2012, she lost her battle. Her death has made us all introspect. We are her murderers. She was called Nirbhaya, the fearless, for her fighting spirit.
Lakhs of people came on roads demanding stricter laws for women safety to be implemented immediately. The protestors clashed with the government machinery on the streets leading to the Parliament and Raisina Hills. The demonstrators were baton charged, hit with water cannon and tear gas shells, and arrested.
Such was the uproar that plenty of Metro stations were shut by Delhi government to curtail public movement. The former leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and current foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, had said: “The rapists should be hanged.” Not all, however, were saddened by the horrific, inhuman incident. There were a few who were more concerned about India’s tourism rather than lending an ear to the sane voices demanding safety for women. Finance minister Arun Jaitley had commented: “One small incident of rape in Delhi advertised across the world is enough to cost us billions of dollars of tourism revenue,” referring to protests demanding stricter laws to make women safe.
Crumbling under immense pressure from the protesters, Government constituted the Justice Verma committee to review and suggest amendments to existing criminal law to deal with sexual assault cases sternly. The anger and massive protests following the rape and murder of Nirbhaya gave rise to hopes for change in India. The Government announced ₹1000 crores of Nirbhaya Fund to improve arrangements for the safety of women in India. The Government of Karnataka announced the launch of a 24/7 dedicated helpline, Sahayak Vahini (Call 1091), to be operated by the state police to register complaints of sexual abuse. Subsequently, the government added another ₹2500 crore to the scheme making it a total of ₹35oo crores. This was to be utilised in rolling out schemes for the safety of women and rehabilitation of rape victims.
The scheme, Security For Women In Public Road Transport In The Country, was approved by Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on January 2, 2014. The scheme, under Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, costs a total of Rs 1404.68 crore. It envisaged, according to an RTI reply, setting up of a National Level Vehicle Security And Tracking system and City Command And Control Centre with the installation of GPS/CCTV/panic buttons in public road transport in 32 Indian cities with a population of more than one million.
The Delhi Integrated Multimodal Transit Systems Limited (DIMTS) has already been paid Rs 1,42,63,214 for providing project management consultancy for setting up the necessary systems. I have a simple question: Have you ever seen a panic button in any of the public transport across India? Have you ever tried 1091 helpline by the government of Karnataka? It’s dead most of the times! So, where did the money under Nirbhaya Fund go? It’s lying idle.
In March 2015, One Stop Crisis Centre (OSCC) with an estimated cost of Rs 18.58 crore was approved by the Union government. According to the initial OSCC proposal, 660 centres were to be created; one centre in every district.
These centres were proposed to facilitate access to a set of services like medical aid, police assistance, legal aid, psychosocial counselling, etc. However, the government opined that so many building so many centres were unnecessary, and “the police were sensitive enough” to handle rape crises. It also proposed that one centre in every state and union territory would be enough. So, the budget was slashed from ₹244.48 crore to ₹18.58 crores.
The number of OSCCs was reduced from 660 to 36. Of these 36 OSCCs, most are not yet set up or are barely functional. Some OSCCs like the Bharosa in Hyderabad (Telangana), Sakhi in Karnal (Haryana), OSC in Raipur (Chhatisgarh), Sakhi in Kohima (Nagaland), and Gauravi in Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh) are functional. Shockingly, Karnataka has not drawn from the fund even once to award compensation to sexual assault survivors. Tamil Nadu is another state that has not yet drawn any money from Nirbhaya Fund yet.
It is clear that fund to the tune of crores, sanctioned for women safety, is rotting while women continue to live in fear. The number of schemes announced is way too few. The schemes that have been announced have not been implemented. While hundreds of women are sexually abused across the nation, the parliament seems more interested in discussing who wore which raincoat while bathing and who belongs to the family of dogs.
It is high time for the youth to unite and force the government to utilise Nirbhaya Fund in a more planned and strategic manner to develop a strong pro-women safety measures, laws to counter acid attacks, sexual harassment, and domestic violence against women. The Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti is running #BreakTheSilence movement for women empowerment and will be reaching out to youths across Karnataka to spread awareness about the issue. The CYSS Karnataka delegation led by Co-Convener Zia Nomani met ex-president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union, Kanhaiya Kumar, and requested his support. Kanhaiya vehemently supported the movement urging like-minded people to come together to bring about change.