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HomeIndiaGovernanceOver 90% of Nirbhaya Fund for women's safety remains unused since 2015

Over 90% of Nirbhaya Fund for women’s safety remains unused since 2015

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Affidavit filed in Supreme Court says the Centre has sanctioned only Rs 264 crore out of total Rs 3,100 crore till August this year

Sanya Dhingra & Apurva Vishwanath 

Is the central government paying only lip service to the issue of women’s safety and security in the country? It seems so. Believe it or not, more than 90 percent of the Rs 3,100-crore ‘Nirbhaya Fund’, created in the aftermath of the 2012 horrific gangrape-cum-murder in Delhi, has remained unutilised since 2015.

According to an affidavit filed on the utilisation of the funds on 23 August, the Centre has sanctioned Rs 264 crore — just 8.5 per cent of total funds — till August 2017.

Among the various proposals linked to the Nirbhaya Fund was the setting up of ‘One-Stop Centres’ (OSCs). Though the scheme took off in 2015, it hasn’t achieved much.

OSCs are meant to facilitate access to an array of services, including medical aid, police assistance, legal aid and psycho-social counselling to victims of sexual assault. The government has released just Rs 64.11 crore, instead of the proposed Rs 120 crore, for the setting up of OSCs.

Another sum of Rs 200 crore has been released to states and union territories as a one-time grant under the Central Victim Compensation Fund (CVCF).

However, the affidavit makes no mention of the utilisation of the remaining amount of over Rs 2,500 crore. The only explanation the government comes out with is that the women and child development ministry has assessed 22 proposals submitted by various ministries and state governments.

How much the government has spend under Nirbhaya fund since 2015

A statement issued by the WCD ministry on 27 July says it has recommended these proposals amounting to Rs 2,209 crore. The affidavit only mentions the amount sanctioned for implementation of two of these 22 proposals.

Whether or not the sanctioned amount has been released to NGOs and other agencies too remains unclear. Swati Maliwal, chief of the Delhi Commission for Women, told ThePrint that while WCD minister Maneka Gandhi and Delhi chief minister agreed on releasing an amount from the fund DCW almost a year ago, the commission is yet to receive the money.

Months after there were spontaneous protests in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya case in 2012, the government announced a Rs 1,000-crore corpus to support initiatives aimed at ensuring the safety for women across the country. The corpus transferred to the Nirbhaya Fund up to 2017-18 financial year is Rs 3,100 crore.

The utilisation of the Nirbhaya Fund is currently under the apex court’s scrutiny. A two-judge bench headed by Justice Madan B. Lokur is hearing a case on framing elaborate guidelines for the medico-legal assistance to be provided to rape victims.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising has been appointed amicus curie to assist the court in the case. Jaising has repeatedly stressed that the fund earmarked for welfare of sexual assault victims is grossly under-utilised.

The Centre has been dragging its feet on submitting balance sheets on its expenditure. Earlier this month, the court slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 on the ministry for not filing affidavits in time.

In fact, the WCD ministry replaced the home ministry as the nodal agency for the Nirbhaya Fund after the court’s intervention.

An official from the ministry said that the amount spent so far is more. However, the affidavit only mentions the amounts sanctioned for the two proposals stated above.

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