The money meant to be invested in building a security infrastructure for women is lying idle, even as crimes against women refuse to die down. According to a response provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the Lok Sabha, the 18 projects that were approved for funding under the Nirbhaya Fund have not utilised even half the money they were sanctioned.
The Integrated Emergency Response Management System project of the Railways, which was approved for financial aid under the Nirbhaya Fund, was appraised at Rs 500 crore. However, the expenditure incurred till date is a little above Rs 50 crore. As part of the project, Railways were to provide round the clock security to women passengers in 983 railway stations by strengthening security control rooms, launching 182 security helplines, apart from providing medical facilities, additional RPF (Railway Police Force) and police personnel and installing CCTV cameras, among other things.
Ministry of Women and Child Development’s (MWCD) “Abhaya Project”, which was sanctioned up to Rs 138.49 crore, has spent only Rs 58.64 crore. The cost of Odisha government’s “Safe City Project Bhubaneswar” was appraised at Rs 110.35 crore by an Empowered Committee (EC). But according to the MHA data, not even a paisa has been spent. Another project in which zero expenditure has been incurred is MHA’s “Organized Crime Investigative Agency” for which the EC had set aside Rs 83.20 crore.
Ministry of Finance had set up the Nirbhaya Fund in 2013 for the implementation of initiatives aimed at enhancing the safety and security of women. It is a non-lapsable corpus fund.
As per the guidelines issued by Ministry of Finance, MWCD is the nodal ministry to appraise schemes under the Nirbhaya Fund and also review and monitor the progress of the sanctioned schemes. An Empowered Committee of officers was constituted under the chairmanship of the Secretary, MWCD, for appraising and approving various schemes/projects proposed by the ministries/departments to be funded.
The EC had approved 18 proposals under Nirbhaya Fund. In January 2017, according to MWCD, these proposals had received Rs 2,195.97 crore, out of which 16 proposals amounting to Rs 2,187.47 crore had been appraised and recommended by the Empowered Committee.
One amongst these approved projects was Delhi Police’s special unit for women and children, which was sanctioned Rs 23.53 crore as part of the Nirbhaya Fund. According to MHA data, Rs 2.35 crore has been spent out of this.
Due to the non-utilisation of the Nirbhaya Fund, the finance ministry cut its budget by half, to Rs 550 crore from Rs 1,000 crore in 2016. The seven state governments that were approved of receiving funding under Nirbhaya Fund for Mahila Police Volunteers (MPVs) scheme did not receive any money in 2015-16. In 2016-17, funds were released to Haryana and Andhra Pradesh. Then in 2017-18, funds were released to the remaining five states of Gujarat, Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh for MPVs.