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Nirbhaya Fund – Low Utilization of Funds is a common feature across various Schemes

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As observed in an earlier story, only about 62% of the funds released under the Nirbhaya fund were utilized as of January 2021. A detailed analysis further reveals that low utilization is a common feature across various schemes. Here are all the details. 

In an earlier story, we analysed the status of funds released & utilized by the states for the various schemes and projects under the Nirbhaya Fund.  We also looked at the broad allocation of Nirbhaya funds for various schemes. Disparities in terms of utilization of these funds were observed in multiple schemes. 

In this story, we take a deeper look to understand the release of the funds & utilization by the states for each of these schemes. As in the previous story, the information on the release of funds and utilization is based on the Central government’s answer in Lok Sabha on 05 February 2021.  

Only Chhattisgarh & Uttarakhand have utilized more than half of the funds released for One-Stop Centres 

One-Stop Centres (OSCs) (also referred to as Sakhi Centres) are intended to provide integrated support to women who are affected by violence – in private & public spaces, within the family, community, workplace etc. Aggrieved women who are facing any kind of violence including sexual assault, harassment, domestic violence, trafficking, honour-related crimes etc. can reach out to OSCs, where they can find support and redressal. This scheme is being implemented under the aegis of the Ministry of Women & Child Development (MWCD) and Nirbhaya Fund is being utilized to establish OSCs in states. 

In the earlier story, we have highlighted that only 23% of the funds released to the states under this schemes have been utilized till January 2021. State-wise numbers reveal wide disparities between states – both in terms of funds released and the extent of utilization. 

  • Uttar Pradesh has received the most funds with Rs. 50.72 crores, of which only Rs. 6.3 crores i.e., around 12.5% have been utilized so far. However, a review of the year-wise break-up does reveal that a major portion of these funds was released in recent years i.e., during 2018-2021. 
  • Among all the states, only Chhattisgarh (73%) and Uttarakhand (55%) have utilized more than half of the funds released. Andhra Pradesh comes third with 49% of funds utilized. 
  • A total of 9 States have utilized less than 10% with Bihar utilizing only 1.8% of the funds released so far. Karnataka, Jharkhand & Odisha are among the larger states with lower utilization, apart from most of the North-eastern States. 

As per the information provided by MWCD recently through a press release, there are 680 operational OSCs out of 728 sanctioned so far across the country. Uttar Pradesh has the highest with 75 OSCs, followed by Madhya Pradesh with 51. In most states, there is an average of one OSC per district. However, in West Bengal, none of the OSCs are operational though 23 OSCs are sanctioned. As per the data shared by the government in the Lok Sabha, not a single rupee has been utilized by the state of West Bengal as far as OSCs are concerned. 

Challenges in the implementation of OSCs have been highlighted in various news reports. Lack of facilities, lack of counsellors, and access to legal, medical & psychological support are cited as challenges with the functioning of OSCs. Few other reports have highlighted that OSCs are increasing the challenges for women rather than finding a solution, in a few of the states. 

More than 3/4th of the funds allocated for OSCs remain un-utilized and this seems to have an impact on the implementation of the scheme. The government should immediately focus on improving the infrastructure & access to resources at the OSCs so that they serve the intended purpose. 

Karnataka, M.P, Maharashtra & West Bengal have not utilized any of the funds released towards Women Helpline Scheme

Universalization of Women Helpline Scheme is another initiative launched under the aegis of MWCD. Like the earlier OSC scheme, the funds were released to nearly all the states, albeit with comparably lesser funding. Across the States/UTs, about 55% of the funds were utilized, but with wide disparities among states. 

The purpose of the scheme is to provide a 24-hour immediate and emergency response to women affected by violence. Women Helpline (WHL) is integrated with OSCs. Funds are allocated to the states to align and upgrade their existing helplines to a centralized national-level helpline. The emergency number under this scheme was 181, to begin with. However, since Feb’2019, an Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) or 112 was launched replacing the various emergency numbers (including 181). Even this initiative was launched using Nirbhaya Funds, with the collaboration of MWCD, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), and C-DAC. 

In specific to this Scheme, few of the large states like Karnataka, M.P, Maharashtra & West Bengal have not used any of the funds which were allocated to them under this scheme. It isn’t even the case of these funds being released recently, with all these states receiving the funds during 2015-16 itself.  Like in the case of OSC, Chhattisgarh tops in terms of utilization with 82% of the funds being utilized. 

Nine of the 13 states allocated funds under Mahila Police Volunteer Scheme have not used them 

One of the major challenges that women face regarding ‘Gender-Based Violence’ (GBV) is that the women who are victims of harassment do not find it easy to approach the police or the authorities. The NFHS-5 (National Family & Health Survey) data clearly establishes that there is under-reporting of the violence committed against women. The Mahila Police Volunteers (MPV) was envisaged to be the link between police and community and facilitate reporting of instances of harassment or violence against women. 

However, data indicates that only about 22% of the funds released to the states under this scheme were utilized. Out of the 13 States/UTs that received funds, only 4 states have utilized the funds towards the scheme. Nine of them have not spent a single rupee under this scheme. 

Haryana has used all the funds that were released under this scheme, while Gujarat has utilized around 55% of the released funds. As per an update provided in Lok Sabha in July 2019, there were 9531 Mahila Volunteers, with Chhattisgarh having the highest (4568) followed by Andhra Pradesh (3000). In the same response, the government has stated that there was no assessment done yet, on the impact of MPVs.

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However, in a more recent response in Lok Sabha specific to Andhra Pradesh, the government reported that a total of 7,569 cases were brought to the attention of police in two of the districts where the scheme was implemented. Of these, 1279 cases were registered, and 6290 cases were settled after counselling. 

None of the funds released for Central Schemes of MoRTH & Department of Justice were utilized by the States 

In an earlier story based on NCRB’s Crime In India (CII) reports, we have highlighted the huge pendency and lower conviction of the cases relating to Crimes against women. Ensuring quick & right justice to women victims of violence & harassment is one of the important drivers behind establishing the Nirbhaya Fund. To further these efforts, the Department of Justice was tasked to establish ‘Fast Track Special Courts’ to dispose of cases that are pending trial under Rape & POCSO Act. As highlighted in the earlier story, none of the funds allocated to the states have been utilized for the establishment of fast-track courts. 

U.P has received the highest funds with Rs. 77 crores followed by Maharashtra & Madhya Pradesh. On 09 January 2020, the Government of India announced that 1023 Fast-track special courts would be established. 

Another scheme, under which Nirbhaya Funds were released to the States but not yet utilized is “Development, Customization, Deployment and Management of State-wise vehicle tracking platform for Safety & Enforcement as per AIS 140 Specifications”. The purpose of the scheme is to provide States with the required funds for upgrading the Public service vehicles as per AIS -140 specifications i.e., to fit ‘Vehicle Location Tracking (VLT)’ devices and Emergency buttons. The support to the states is extended under the aegis of the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH). The scheme was approved in 2019-20 and a total of 19 States/UTs have received funds under this scheme. Funds were released to 5 states in 2019-20 and to another 14 states in 2020-21.  However, not a single rupee under this scheme is utilized so far. 

Highest expenditure among MHA projects was for Safe City project 

When compared to the schemes launched under various Ministries through the Nirbhaya Fund, the projects under MHA have the highest proportion of fund utilization. Most funds were released to Delhi with around Rs. 403 crores for various projects under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), of which 87% of the funds were utilized. It is followed by Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka & Uttar Pradesh. 

The details provided in Lok Sabha have the cumulative total of funds released to the States & funds utilized for the various projects under MHA. However, it does not provide the project-wise release of the funds. This can be ascertained to an extent, based on the details of expenditure by States for various MHA projects given in the same Lok Sabha response. 

Based on this information, it is observed that the highest expenditure was under the “Safe City” project. Apparently, 8 cities were chosen for Safe City Project – Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad & Lucknow. These are the capitals of the 8 states to which the highest funds were allocated. The proportionately higher utilization under MHA schemes can also be attributed to the higher expenditure under – Safe City project. 

The utilization of the funds released under other MHA schemes is comparably lower in the other states. 

As per the details provided in Lok Sabha, a total of Rs. 1,285.12 crores are the expenditure so far under the Safe-city project. However, a few of the latest news reports highlight the delays in the execution of the project in a few cities.  

Utilization is comparatively higher for State specific projects 

Apart from the Central projects & schemes under the aegis of Central Ministries, there are certain State-level projects that have received funding from Nirbhaya Fund. 

As per the details provided in the Lok Sabha answer, there are four such schemes under MWCD and 3 under MoRTH. There are variances in the extent of utilization of the funds released, the details of which are captured in the below table. However, compared to schemes being implemented under the aegis of various central ministries, the fund utilization in the state-specific projects is better. 

Non-utilization of the funds is a major concern 

The common aspect under various projects and schemes that received funds under Nirbhaya Fund is the low utilization in most states. From the decadal review of the Crime against women that we did based on NCRB’s annual CII report, it is clear that the instances of crimes against women are increasing. 

These trends indicate the importance of the various schemes under the Nirbhaya fund which is aimed at supporting the different initiatives and schemes aimed to improve the safety of women in the country. 

Each of these schemes & projects covers various aspects that could improve women’s safety. The low utilization across the board calls for a detailed assessment of the efficacy of the funds released to various schemes & projects and initiatives corrective measures as necessary. Such low utilization defeats the purpose of establishing a non-lapsable fund with a specific focus on women’s safety. 

Featured Image: Low Utilization of Nirbhaya Funds

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