It’s five years since the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government first started the Nirbhaya Fund in 2013 to tackle the appalling state of women’s safety in India. The non-lapsable corpus fund was constituted after the country outraged against five men who gang raped and murdered 23-year-old Jyoti Singh in 2012. The Congress government allocated Rs 1,000 Cr twice and then the BJP government also allocated Rs. 1,000 Cr. after coming to power, making the grand total of the fund to Rs 3,000 Cr (approx).

Recently, a parliamentary panel Standing Committee strongly criticised Nirbhaya funds being used for construction purposes. Further, Ranjana Kumari who is fighting for justice for Jyoti Singh and Singh’s mother Asha Devi have also expressed their displeasure at this news.

Key Takeaways:

  • The parliamentary panel strongly criticised its usage in the construction of buildings. It also said that such utilisation virtually defeats the very purpose of the project – women safety.
  • The fund was institutionalised to support the survivors and rehabilitate them, to provide them with medical and legal aid, to create an institution that will give access to justice (One Stop Centres), and to create awareness around women’s safety.
  • Initially, when we found out that Rs 500 Cr was used to install CCTV cameras in railway stations, we were very shocked. – Ranjana Kumari
  • It does not matter that the fund was called Nirbhaya Fund but it was institutionalized for safety and security of women and prevention of rape but even five years later, the government has not made use of it appropriately. – Asha Devi

SHODDY UTILISATION

However, this fund lies barely used and the usage of it has barely helped the cause of women’s safety which was the primary motive of it. The parliamentary panel strongly criticised its usage in the construction of buildings. It also said that such utilisation virtually defeats the very purpose of the project – women safety. Between the time period, proposals have been accepted to allocate funds to construct One Stop Centres by WCD Ministry, install CCTV cameras in Railway Stations by railway ministry, create “safe cities” by Ministry of Information Technology, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Ministry of Railways and Ministry of Home Affairs.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, headed by Congress leader P Chidambaram said on Thursday that the committee strongly believes that funds for construction of buildings should come from other sources.

“The committee strongly recommends that the home ministry should desist from sanctioning funds for schemes like construction of buildings from the Nirbhaya Fund and adhere to its original purpose,” it said, Business Standard reported.

HOW IS NIRBHAYA FUND ALLOCATED?

Ranjana Kumari who is fighting for justice for Singh’s parents and has closely followed the use of the fund told SheThePeople.TV, “The fund was institutionalised to support the survivors and rehabilitate them, to provide them with medical and legal aid, to create institution that will give access to justice (One Stop Centres), and to create awareness around women’s safety.”

“Initially, when we found out that Rs 500 Cr was used to install CCTV cameras in railway stations, we were very shocked. Then in a meeting with WCD minister Maneka Gandhi, she told us that there is nothing like Nirbhaya Fund. There are these allocations which are with the Finance Ministry and every ministry has been asked to send proposals to access that fund and since our ministry has not been able to send a proposal, we haven’t got any allocation,” said Kumari. Finally, the WCD ministry got an allocation of Rs 119. 71 Cr to build 183 OSCs, of which 170 are functional by February, 2018.

ASHA DEVI CONDEMNS NIRBHAYA FUND UTILIZATION

Even Asha Devi, mother of Jyoti Singh reprimanded the government for underutilising the Nirbhaya Fund. She told us, “I have not seen proper utilisation of the fund. Using the Nirbhaya fund for constructing buildings is wrong. It does not matter that the fund was called Nirbhaya Fund but it was institutionalised for safety and security of women and prevention of rape but even five years later, the government has not made use of it appropriately.

Even today if survivors go to the police station and seek redressal, they don’t get proper treatment. Our judiciary is flawed, there is a scarcity of judges who can deal with issues like rape with the required sensitivity. The government made the fund, changed the law but six years have gone past and we still seek justice. The perpetrators of Jyoti have not been hanged despite the judgment passed by the Supreme Court. We still don’t know even if they will be hanged or not.”

The parliamentary panel also disapproved sanctioning funds from Nirbhaya Fund for compensating the survivors as it would render it as a fund just for disbursal and would not have a desired impact at the ground-level in enhancing the security scenario for the women. It asserted that sanctioning of funds for rehabilitation and compensation must happen from the one-time grant for Central Victim Compensation Fund (CVCF) Scheme which was Rs 200 Cr. It appreciated the necessity and significance of the CVCF Scheme, however, suggested that this scheme could have been funded from other sources.

Even today if survivors go to the police station and seek redressal, they don’t get proper treatment. Our judiciary is flawed, there is a scarcity of judges who can deal with issues like rape with the required sensitivity. The government made the fund, changed the law but six years have gone past and we still seek justice.

ALSO READ: Can Nirbhaya Fund Be Used To Trace Missing Kids? Delhi HC Asks Centre

NO INTENT OF PROPER UTILIZATION?

“The committee feels that home ministry should identify such innovative projects for funding and implementation.

The committee, therefore, recommends that the ministry should undertake sincere efforts to identify innovative technology-driven projects that can enhance the safety of women and seek additional funds for their implementation,” it said.

However, Kumari is of the view that there is no “intent” of the government to work on the safety and security of women. “Looking at the way the committee has responded towards utilisation of Nirbhaya Fund and has asked the question, it seems there was hardly any seriousness about spending the funds for safety and security of women which was the prime aim of the fund,” she added.

More Stories by Poorvi Gupta

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