Exactly a year after a 23-year-old girl’s brutal gang-rape and murder shocked the country, the Centre on Monday approved several proposals for enhancing women’s safety under the much-publicised Nirbhaya Fund.

With the public mounting pressure and political parties criticising the government for failing to utilise the Rs.1,000-crore fund — named after Nirbhaya, the name given to conceal the victim’s identity — Finance Minister P. Chidambaram announced that mobile handset makers will have to introduce an SoS alert button to ensure that women in distress can be reached by the police in the minimum possible time.

The fund will be utilised to introduce SoS alert systems in trains and to install Global Positioning System (GPS) and CCTVs in public transport vehicles. These measures have been proposed by the Ministries of Home Affairs, Railways and Road Transport and Highways.

“The Cabinet notes [for these proposals] are under preparation. The three Ministries will bring the proposals to the Cabinet either this Thursday or next Thursday,” he said.

In a proposal made by the Ministries of Home Affairs and Information Technology, the police administration will be integrated with the mobile phone network to quickly respond to distress calls.

The scheme will be launched in 157 cities in two phases (55 in phase I and 102 in phase II).

GPS, CCTVs on public transport vehicles

On its part, the Road Transport Ministry has proposed a scheme — ‘Security of women in road transport in the country’ — which will cover 32 towns, each with a population of over one million, to be implemented over two years. The expected outlay is about Rs. 1,700 crore. Under the proposal, public transport vehicles will have GPS for easy tracking, CCTVs and more women drivers and conductors, among others steps.

The Railway Ministry proposes to launch a public scheme for setting up an SoS alert system in trains in select zones. The facility will cover all service providers from all telecom circles. It will have a call recording facility and a call centre.

An estimated Rs. 25.17 crore would be required to roll out the scheme across the country, Mr. Chidambaram said, adding that the Ministry had not asked for any fund at this stage.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development is also formulating a scheme for vulnerability mapping, opening of response centres and creating awareness for safety and security of women in the 32 towns, an official statement issued later said.

While the initial corpus of the Nirbhaya Fund is Rs. 1,000 crore, Mr. Chidambaram said it is expected to be enhanced from time to time. He explained that the corpus could be transferred only during the first Supplementary demands for Grants.

For several months there was no clarity on who would have the administrative control over the corpus even as the Ministry of Women and Child Development had staked its claim. Eventually, the Finance Ministry kept the money with it and said funds would be released as and when proposals are received and approved from the Ministries.

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