The States and Union Territories have utilised less than 20% of the budget allocated to them under the Nirbhaya Fund for safety of women by the Central government between 2015 and 2018, according to official data.
A sum of ₹1,813 crore has been disbursed by the Centre from 2015 to 2019. Of this, The Hindu analysed details of ₹854.66 crore disbursed until 2018, for which utilisation details were made available by the Minister of Women and Child Development Smriti Irani to the Lok Sabha on Friday.
As per the data, of the ₹854.66 crore released by the Centre, a mere ₹165.48 crore has been spent by various States and UTs on different schemes launched by the Centre as well as other schemes for which the local governments sought funds.
The Nirbhaya Fund was set up by the UPA-II in the aftermath of the gang rape of a paramedical student in a moving bus in New Delhi in December 2012 with an initial corpus of ₹1,000 crore. The Fund supports schemes for safety of women, and over the past six years it has swelled to ₹3,600 crore through allocation in the Finance Budgets. Though the Fund was instituted in 2013, its disbursement gathered pace only from 2015.
The key schemes under which the States have been allocated money include Emergency Response Support System, Central Victim Compensation Fund, Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Children, One Stop Scheme, Mahila Police Volunteer, and Universalisation of Women Helpline Scheme.
The top five States ranked in terms of utilisation of money across various schemes under the Nirbhaya Fund were Chandigarh (59.83%), Mizoram (56.32%), Uttarakhand (51.68%), Andhra Pradesh (43.23%) and Nagaland (38.17%). However, the government data shows more money was utilised by Chandigarh than what was allocated to it under Central Victim Compensation Fund as well as Women Helpline Scheme.
The worst five States include Manipur, Maharashtra, Lakshadweep – which didn’t spend even a single penny – and were followed by West Bengal (0.76%) and Delhi (0.84%).
Delhi, which was at the centre of nation-wide protests following the 2012 gang rape setting the wheels in motion for introducing the Fund, didn’t use any money for three of the four schemes under which it was allocated a total sum of ₹35 crore. These include schemes for emergency support, women helpline, and cyber crime prevention. The national capital used a mere a mere 3.41% of the money it received for compensating victims of gender based violence.
An analysis of how much the various schemes have taken off in different States shows that none of the 36 States and UTs have spent any money on the Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Children programme. The Centre disbursed ₹93.12 crore for this scheme in 2017.
As many 21 States have not used any money under the Central Victim Compensation Fund for providing support to victims of rape, acid attacks, human trafficking and women killed or injured in cross border firing; ₹200 crore was allocated to 36 States and UTs for the programme with the aim to supplement State governments’ funds as well as to reduce disparity in quantum of compensation.
Funds allocated for the Emergency Response Support System, which envisages a pan-India emergency number for police, rescue, health and fire services, also remain unused by 18 States.
However, despite a poor record by States in using the money given to them, the Centre has continued to pump in more cash for schemes like One Stop Scheme as well as Universalisation of Women Helpline Scheme- which provides for a single national helpline 181 linked with One Stop Centres for women in distress. Some of the glaring examples include Bihar, which did not use even a single rupee out of Rs 5.20 crore for One Stop Centres between 2015 and 2019 but was granted Rs 3.9 crore again in 2019 and 2020. Similarly, Uttar Pradesh didn’t use any money from Rs 1.91 crore given to it for the Women Helpline Scheme, yet it was granted Rs 46.5 lakh again in 2019.