1/3rd of Nirbhaya fund remains unspent despite increase in rape cases in India
The Nirbhaya fund was set up to enhance safety and security for women in the country. However, 33 per cent of the funds remain unutilised.
गाँव कनेक्शन 15 Sep 2022 1:53 PM GMT
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
Ten years after the Nirbhaya gangrape in 2012, on September 14, two minor girls, sisters, belonging to the Scheduled Caste (SC) community, were found hanging from a tree in an agricultural field in Lakhimpur Kheri's Tamoli Purwa village. The autopsy report said that the girls had been gangraped before being strangled to death and they hung from the tree.
In 2013, the Government of India had set up the Nirbhaya Fund for implementation of initiatives aimed at enhancing the safety and security for women in the country. The funds are used to rehabilitate or provide subsistence to a survivor or victim of sexual assault, and this has to be disbursed within three to six months.
The Nirbhaya Fund was meant to facilitate a number of schemes relating to women empowerment and women safety, including emergency phone helpline assistance, compensation to victims and survivors, prevention of crime against women and women police volunteers. However, as per the Centre's own admission, this vital scheme is in jeopardy.
On the one hand, survivors of rape struggle to lead a normal life. On the other, the funds remain underutilised.
According to data provided by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development in a press statement dated August 3, 2022, of Rs 6,712.85 crore allocated from the Nirbhaya Find, upto the financial year 2022-23, an amount of Rs 4,480.30 crore has been released by the government. About 66.7 per cent of the funds released have been utilised. There has been no clarity or explanation by either the central or the state governments as to why the remaining Rs 2,232.55 crore (33.25 per cent) could not be spent.
Among the five lowest-spending states were Sikkim (43.48 per cent), Meghalaya (42.18 per cent), Arunachal Pradesh (40.97 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (33.79 per cent), and Bihar (38.80 per cent).
The top utilisers are Delhi (97.68 per cent), Tamil Nadu (92.37 per cent), Lakshadweep (91.85 per cent), West Bengal (91.02 per cent), and Telangana (84.37 per cent).
Meanwhile, the government data suggests how violence against Dalit women in India is on the rise. According to the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, atrocities or crimes against Scheduled Castes have increased by 1.2 per cent in 2021 with Uttar Pradesh reporting the largest share of such crimes in India — 25.82 per cent.
A total of 31,677 rape cases have been reported in 2021 in the country. Of this, over 12 per cent (3,870) cases were of 'Rape against SC women'. There were 1,285 rape cases among children belonging to the SC communities also reported. Cases of sexual assault against scheduled castes account for 12.22 per cent of the total cases reported in the country and every third such rape is of a minor girl.
Funds slashed by half
While the data suggests that there has been a rise in the number of rape cases in the country and an increase in violence and rape against SC women, the funds under the Nirbhaya funds have been slashed by half since its first allocation.
In the first year 2013-14, Rs 1,000 crore was allocated to the Fund, with the provision that this would be distributed annually among various states, depending on population, area and level of crimes against women. But the amount under the fund has been declining year after year, and the central government has been able to release only Rs 500 crore this financial year 2022-23.
Between financial year 2016-17 and 2021-22, Uttar Pradesh has received Rs 492.40 under the Nirbhaya Fund but utilised only 62 per cent (Rs 305.33 crore).
In Uttar Pradesh, the unutilised 33.28 per cent under the Nirbhaya Fund is problematic. Especially, when cases of violence against women in the state have been steadily increasing, as observed by the NCRB report.