Region-wise disparities in fund utilisation; Conviction rate in crimes against women continues to remain abysmal
December 16, 2022, marks a decade of the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case in New Delhi. Around 70 per cent of the non-lapsable corpus fund established in the aftermath of the horrific incident so far has been utilised, the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development told the Lok Sabha on December 9, 2022.
The Nirbhaya Fund was established in 2013 to implement initiatives to enhance the safety and security of women in the country.
“Various factors such as time taken in getting required approvals from competent authorities, procedure to be followed for awarding contract, disruptions due to unforeseen reasons such as the one created by the COVID-19, etc have also affected implementation of schemes/projects,” the ministry said in its written answer.
A closer look at the statistics over the years, however, revealed region-wise disparities.
In the national capital, a total of Rs 422.88 crore have been allocated — the highest in the country — under the fund. Of this, Rs 413.07 crore has been utilised — Rs 32.8 crore in 2016-2017, Rs 9.24 crore in 2017-18, Rs 74.23 crore in 2018-2019, Rs 291.32 crore in 2019-2020, Rs 8.85 crore in 2020-2021 and Rs 6.44 crore in 2021-2022.
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In Maharashtra, Rs 314.06 crore have been allocated, of which Rs 254.65 crore have been utilised thus far. In Uttar Pradesh, Rs 305.33 crore has been utilised out of the Rs 492.4 crore allocated. Rajasthan has used Rs 82.83 crore of its Rs 129.18 crore allocation.
Haryana has utilised Rs 35.97 crore of the Rs 54.6 crore allocated to it.
Under the Nirbhaya Fund Framework, an Empowered Committee is responsible for appraising and recommending proposals to be supported by the fund and works in unison with ministries, departments and/or implementing agencies concerned.
“The projects/schemes under Nirbhaya Fund are demand-driven,” and therefore are not implemented at the same time across the country, the ministry said in its answer.
“While some of the appraised projects are directly implemented by central ministries/ departments, a majority of the projects are implemented through state governments/Union territory administrations in which (the) central government releases the funds to states/UTs,” it added.
Among the many schemes being implemented under the fund, one is aimed at strengthening the anti-human trafficking units (AHTU) across the country.
The Union Home ministry provided Rs 98.86 crore for this in the financial years 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, the central agency noted in a written answer to Lok Sabha on December 13.
Between 2014 and 2021, the Nirbhaya Fund approved 35 projects across 10 ministries and departments. However, issues persist.
While such efforts may improve women’s safety in India, the conviction rate in crimes against women continues to remain abysmal — at just 26.5 per cent in 2021, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau.
“There is a lack of proposals for projects on women’s safety from important ministries and departments, like the Department of Health and Family Welfare and Urban Development, where convergence for women’s safety is expected,” an Accountability India blog from May 2022 noted.
There have also been reports of Nirbhaya Funds being used for situations not related to women’s safety. Most recently, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s government was accused of using the Nirbhaya Fund for vehicles.
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