The gruesome rape & murder of a veterinary doctor in Hyderabad has once again triggered the debate on safety of women. Apathy of governments is visible from the state of utilization of the Nirbhaya fund, established in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya incident in Delhi in 2012. Out of the ₹ 6755 crores worth projects approved so far, only about ₹ 1380 crores is utilized, which is just about 20%. Maharashtra utilized only 0.1% of the funds released so far.
Aftermath of the brutal 2012 gang rape in Delhi, a few policy changes that were effected to tackle crimes against women. Apart from the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 or Nirbhaya Act, the Government of India has also launched the Nirbhaya Fund. This is a corpus fund created to support initiatives and measures taken to ensure the safety of women.
Since the launch of the fund, the government has from time-to-time transferred money to this corpus fund and multiple new initiatives have been funded from this corpus.
In this story, we explore details of the Nirbhaya Fund and take a look at the different initiatives/schemes funded through the Nirbhaya Fund along with the status of utilization of these funds.
Nirbhaya Fund is a non-lapsable corpus fund set up for enhancing safety and security of women
The Nirbhaya Fund is a non-lapsable corpus fund which is administered by the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance. This fund is dedicated specifically to improvise the safety and security of women.
The Ministry of Finance has issued guidelines on 25 March 2015, regarding the framework of Nirbhaya Fund. The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) is appointed as the nodal ministry to appraise proposals for recommended schemes that can be funded under the Nirbhaya Fund. In addition to this, the MWCD also has the responsibility of reviewing and monitoring the progress of these sanctioned schemes.
Appraisal and recommendation of proposals is done by an Empowered Committee
An empowered committee was constituted on 26 October 2015 whose responsibility is to appraise and recommend the proposals to be funded through this fund.
The composition of the Empowered committee is:
Any proposal made by the central government can be directly sent to MWCD while, the state departments are required to submit them to relevant central government department which are then forwarded to MWCD.
Once the empowered committee makes recommendations, the respective department places the proposal before the competent authority as per the following financial limits:
Apart from MWCD, which is the nodal agency for allocating funds, even the Ministry of Finance can disburse funds for few projects.
A total of ₹ 3,600 crores transferred to Corpus Fund as of 2018-19
Nirbhaya Fund was launched in the year 2013-14 with a corpus of ₹1,000 crore. As per an answer in Lok Sabha on 27 July 2018, further ₹ 2,600 were transferred to the corpus fund in the subsequent years.
After allocation of ₹1000 crore per year during the first two years, there was no new transfer during 2015-16 to Nirbhaya corpus fund. In the next two years ₹ 550 crores per year was added to the corpus with ₹ 500 crores being allocated in 2018-19. A total of ₹ 3,600 crores has been allocated to Nirbhaya fund corpus till 2018-19. In the 2019-20 budget, ₹ 500 crores is estimated to be transferred to the corpus fund.
Nearly ₹ 6,755 crores approved for various schemes from Nirbhaya Fund, only 20% utilized
Funds under the Nirbhaya scheme have been allocated to various schemes, launched by different departments, focussed on enhancing the safety and security of women and to provide justice. The analysis presented in this story is based on the data provided by Minister for Women & Child Development in Lok Sabha, on two separate occasions in response to the questions raised by Members of Parliament.
As per a response in Lok Sabha on 26 July 2019, the minister provided the details of the various schemes under different ministries/departments, which were funded from the Nirbhaya corpus. In this response, the details were categorised under various heads like – Appraisal Amount, Amount Approved by CFA (Competent Financial Authority), Amount Released and Amount Utilized.
As per this data, total of ₹ 6,755 crores were approved by CFA for various schemes launched by different Ministries/departments. These include – Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Department of Justice and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
The Home Ministry’s ‘Safe City Proposal’ scheme has the highest allocation with ₹ 2,840 crores of which ₹ 734 crores have been released and utilized as per the information provided in Lok Sabha on 26 July 2019.
Among other schemes, One Stop Centre (OSC) has a total approved allocation of ₹ 868 crores, of which ₹ 289 crores were released and ₹49.9 crores were utilized.
Overall, of the ₹ 6755 crores approved so far, only ₹ 1377 crores have been utilized which is about 20% utilization.
Not a single rupee allocated to set up Fast Track Special courts utilized so far
The Ministry of Women & Child Development, responding to question in the Lok Sabha on 29 November 2019, provided information of the allocation and utilization of the Nirbhaya funds allocated to States/UTs under various schemes.
As per this data, States/UTs has received a total of ₹ 1,672.2 crores for various schemes under the Home Ministry. Of this, only ₹ 147 crores have been utilized i.e. 8.8%. Meanwhile, the states/UTs were allocated a total of ₹ 372.64 crores for various schemes under Ministry for Women & Child Development, of which only ₹ 70.7 crores were utilized.
Meanwhile, 11 states (Jharkhand, Maharashtra, MP, Kerala, Karnataka, Manipur, Nagaland, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tripura, Uttarakhand) received ₹ 78.9 crores to set up Fast Track Special courts for disposing cases pending under Rape & POCSO Act, but not a single rupee has been utilized as per the latest data.
One stop Centre Scheme is one of the key initiatives by MWCD, to provide integrated support and assistance under one roof, to women affected by violence. A total of ₹ 311.2 crores have been allocated from Nirbhaya Fund, for all the states & UTs (except for West Bengal & Lakshadweep). However only ₹ 42.9 crores have been utilized so far. Even the other schemes under MWCD like the ‘Mahila Police Volunteer Scheme’ and ‘Universalization of Women Helpline Scheme’ have less utilization ratio across all the states and UTs.
Delhi, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu & UP have received the highest allocation over the years
As noted earlier, the states can also submit proposals to utilize funds from the Nirbhaya corpus. The relevant State Government Departments can also formulate proposals and submit them to the concerned Central Government Ministry/Department.
A total of ₹ 2,264.9 crores is allocated from the Nirbhaya fund so far to different states, under the various schemes of different ministries.
The UT of Delhi was allocated the highest amount from the Nirbhaya fund. It received a total of ₹ 393.4 crores. Among the states, Karnataka received the highest with ₹ 245.6 crores , followed by Tamil Nadu which received ₹ 208.9 crores.
The state of Uttar Pradesh was given ₹ 195.5 crores while Maharashtra received ₹ 202.9 under the Nirbhaya Fund.
Of the states, the least amount was given to Sikkim at ₹ 8.6 crores. The other states which received lower amounts of allocation include : Goa (₹ 9.01 crores), Meghalaya (₹12.3 crores) and Tripura (₹13.22) crores.
Uttar Pradesh followed by Chhattisgarh and Delhi have utilized the highest amount by volume for various schemes.
Out of the total allocation, a sum of ₹ 252.1 crores was utilized by the states for various schemes sponsored from the Nirbhaya fund, which is just 11.1% of the amount released.
Uttar Pradesh has utilized the highest amount with a total of ₹ 41.9 crores. It needs to be noted that UP has received the 4th highest amount among the states and UTs.
Chhattisgarh utilised the second highest amount with ₹ 20.3 crores followed by Delhi with ₹ 19.4 crores. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh which are among the states which received the higher amounts spent only ₹ 15.8 crores and 14.3 crores respectively.
Maharashtra utilized only 0.19 crores, the least among all the states and UTs while it received the 5th highest amount.
Only 11.1% of the total funds utilized by States Maharashtra utilized only 0.1%
Of the total funds released from Nirbhaya corpus to the states under various schemes, only 11.1% were utilized so far.
Maharashtra has significantly low utilization of funds with only 0.1% of the funds utilized so far. As noted earlier in the story, Maharashtra is among the states with higher allocation (₹ 195.5 crores) but the utilization was only ₹ 0.19 crores.
The state of Telangana, where the recent gruesome case of murder and rape took place, has utilized only 5.7% of the total allocation under Nirbhaya Fund. States of Tamil Nadu (3.4%), West Bengal (5.1%), Odisha (6.3%) and Karnataka (6.4%) utilized lesser proportion of funds compared to the national average utilization of 11.1% if one goes by the data provided by the government in the Lok Sabha on 29 November 2019.
The National Capital Territory of Delhi, which records a higher incidence of crimes against women, and also the place where the Nirbhaya incident occurred, utilized only 4.9% of the funds released so far.
Low Utilization of allocated funds across states for key schemes
As highlighted earlier in the article, none of the funds allocated through Department of Justice to set up Fast track courts have been utilised by the states. A total of 11 states were released funds to setup fast track courts.
Similarly, 12 states received funds for MWCD’s ‘Mahila Police Volunteer Scheme’, of which the utilization is low among all the states. Andhra Pradesh has utilized only ₹ 0.75 crores of the ₹ 5.2 crores it received. Similarly, Chhattisgarh which received the highest allocation of ₹ 7.15 crores under this scheme, utilized only ₹1.5 crores.
Universalization of Women Helpline Scheme is a key initiative to develop an emergency response system using a single emergency number. Funding was provided to nearly all the states and most of these states have utilized more than 60% of the funds allocated. However, there are exceptions like the states of Punjab, Meghalaya and Sikkim which have utilized only around 40% of the funds allocated.
Out of ₹ 33.6 crores allocated to Karnataka for ‘Training Women for Heavy Passengers vehicles’, under Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, only ₹ 2.2 crores is utilized so far. Meanwhile UP has utilized 77% of the ₹ 40.2 crores for ‘enhancing women safety in public transport’ initiative. Meanwhile, none of the ₹ 58.6 crores allocated to Andhra Pradesh for ‘Abhaya Project’ have been utilized.
Only 23% of funds allocated for CCPWC Scheme utilized by states
The increase in the usage of Internet and modern communication technologies have resulted in a significant increase in cybercrimes over the years. Women and Children are the major targets of such crimes. To tackle cyber-crimes against women and children and develop and effective mechanism, Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Children (CCPWC) scheme was introduced. Developing an Online Cyber reporting platform, national level cyber forensic laboratory, creating awareness, research & development are the key focus areas of this scheme.
A total of ₹ 93.12 crores were released out of an estimated ₹ 223.2 crores for the various activities to be taken up under CCPWC scheme. However, as per the information provided in Lok Sabha on 29 November 2019, only ₹ 22 crores have been utilized by the states so far.
Allocated funds being not utilized defeats the purpose of establishing Nirbhaya Fund.
Out of the ₹ 3,600 corpus fund, nearly 63% i.e. ₹2,258.6 crores have been released to the states and various departments to implement the proposed schemes. However, utilizing only Rs 252.1 crores i.e 11.1% of the allocation by the states and only a 20% utilization of the overall approved amount is a gross neglect of the purpose of establishing the Nirbhaya Fund.
As per NCRB’s CII report-2017, the rate of Crime Against Women is 57.9 (per 1 lakh population) and the total number of reported cases of crime against women in 2017 was 3.45 lakh, higher than the previous two years. As we have highlighted in an earlier story, many instances of crime, especially against women do not get reported. Therefore the actual incidence of crime against women could be much higher than what the numbers indicate.
Against this background, the non-utilization of funds allocated specifically for the purpose of enhancing safety of women reflects the apathy of the governments.
There is an urgent need for the Ministry of Women & Child Development to initiate a review on the state of utilization of the funds and complete the approved projects on a war footing.
Featured Image: Nirbhaya Fund Utilization