10 Years of Nirbhaya: Struggle for Nirbhaya Fund and Women's Safety Continues
Image Courtesy: PTI
New Delhi: On December 16, 2012, Nirbhaya was gang-raped in a moving bus in the country's capital, Delhi. This incident shook the whole country. People had taken to the streets across the country, holding placards and candles, raising slogans like 'Justice for Nirbhaya', 'No girl's clothes, change your thinking' and 'We want security for daughters'.
After this case, big promises were made regarding women's safety and empowerment, amendments were made to the law, and the Justice Verma Committee was formed in 2013 to ensure the safety of women.
The Nirbhaya Fund was established with the aim of reducing violence against women, helping rape victims, and ensuring their rehabilitation; governments changed at the Centre, but today, even after 10 years, the state of women's safety has still not changed.
In response to a written question asked in the Lok Sabha recently, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Zubin Irani, while sharing information related to the Nirbhaya Fund, informed the House about its allocation to all the states and usage in the last six years. According to this data, out of 36 states and Union territories of the country, 17 states and UTs have used less than 60% of the Nirbhaya Fund in the last six years. Red-tapism, under-spends, unclear allocations, and lack of political diligence have hollowed out the fund, according to several reports.
UNSPENT FUND MONEY
The Central government gives the state governments a share of the Nirbhaya Fund according to their area and population. According to the ministry, Delhi ranks first among the top five states with 97.7% utilisation of this fund, followed by Tamil Nadu (92.4%), Lakshadweep (91.9%), West Bengal (91%) and Gujarat (81.5%) with 5th place.
In the same sequence, if we talk about five such states which have made minimum use of the Nirbhaya Fund, then Andhra Pradesh (33.8%), Bihar (38.80%), Arunachal Pradesh (35.7%), Meghalaya (42.2%) is the first place. ), Sikkim (43.5%). If we talk about Uttar Pradesh alone, only 62% of the Nirbhaya Fund has been utilised.
Earlier, in a press statement dated August 3, 2022, the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development had said that out of Rs 6,712.85 crore allocated by the government from Nirbhaya Fund till the financial year 2022-23, Rs 4,480.30 crore had been released. About 66.7% of the funds released have been utilised. The remaining Rs 2,232.55 crore (33.25%) could not be spent.
Crimes Against Women
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there are 87 rape incidents in India on average daily. According to the latest data, there has been an increase of 13.23% in rape cases compared with the previous years. In 2021, a total of 31,677 cases of rape were reported in the country. Of this, more than 12% (3,870) cases were of 'rape against SC women.' 1,285 cases of rape among children belonging to Scheduled Castes communities were also registered. Sexual assault against SCs accounts for 12.22% of the total cases reported in the country, and every third of such rape is of a minor girl.
According to the figures of Delhi Police, 5.6 rape cases are reported in a day in the capital Delhi. However, it is ironic that the solidarity, fury and sensitivity seen among the people after the Nirbhaya case came to the fore has now ended. The laws have become stricter, but the process of getting justice is still long.
HOW DID THE DISCOURSE AROUND WOMEN'S SAFETY CHANGE?
In such a situation, the question arises as to how far this case has taken the discussion of women's safety in the country. How effective were the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee? And in the end, the question is, after the hanging of the culprits of the Nirbhaya case, how much reduction has been seen in the crimes against women in the country?
Experts believe that in such cases, along with the strictness of the law, it is also necessary to change the social mindset. The permanent solution to this problem is to end the patriarchal mindset which considers women as the property of men.
Late feminist Kamala Bhasin had told NewsClick: "Until the thinking of the society changes, women will not get equal status, security. From the family to the government, everyone at the level of society must understand their role in creating a safe place for half the population."
Bhasin said: "The system should be more sensitive to gender issues, and gender sensitisation programs should be started in schools. So that the work of changing the mindset of the children is done so that such crimes do not happen in the future."
Nirbhaya Fund Decreased During Modi Govt's Tenure
Significantly, while in the Opposition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called Delhi the 'rape capital' in many of his election rallies. In his first Independence Day speech after coming to power in 2014, he also talked about the rising number of rapes, but since then, cases of sexual violence have kept increasing across the country, including Delhi, in which many influential people were also involved. But Modi tweeted only once in 2018 that the daughters of India will get justice. Then the allegations of rape against some members of his party had also made headlines.
In 2014, at an election rally in Bihar, Modi said, "Nirbhaya incident took place on the land of Delhi. A poor daughter was brutally killed. She was raped. The incident took place in front of your eyes. Is this low politics or not? You made Rs 1000 crore Nirbhaya fund; it's been a year, and not a single penny has been spent. Is this low politics or not? This is cheating with Nirbhaya. Is this a low act or not? Who does low politics?
However, the Nirbhaya Fund, created during the Congress-led United Porgressive Alliance government, was started with an announcement of about Rs 1,000 crore. Its amount was halved during the initial tenure of the Modi government. During 2015-16, a year after Modi came to power, no amount was given to this fund. The government gave this information in the Lok Sabha on July 27, 2018. At that time, on the question of 11 Opposition MPs, it was told by the Ministry of Women and Child Development that till 2018-19, Rs 3,600 crore was transferred to the public account for the Nirbhaya Fund. The budget for 2018-19 allocated only Rs 500 crore for the Nirbhaya Fund, the lowest ever.
In 2013, the Nirbhaya Fund was around Rs 823 crore. But in later years, it has been up and down. This fund has been given to those schemes and categories whose names have changed yearly. Therefore, to know how much has been allocated to this fund, it should be ascertained how much has been released so far and not what has been allocated.
In response to the information about the project started under the Nirbhaya Fund in the Lok Sabha on July 26, 2019, Irani talked about the projects started under different ministries and their expenditure. These ministries included the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Road-Transport and Highways, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of IT.
Allocation to Nirbhaya Fund is already low, in such a situation, spending most of the amount received under this fund in other government departments, was not the purpose of starting this scheme.
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