About 30 per cent of the Rs 6,000 crore 'Nirbhaya Fund' which was set up after the gang-rape of a paramedical student in 2012 remains unutilised, a decade after the incident shook the conscience of the nation.
The 23-year-old paramedic student, who came to be known as 'Nirbhaya' was raped in a moving bus on the intervening night of December 16-17 in Delhi by six people. She died in a Singapore hospital days later.
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After the incident, a dedicated fund called 'Nirbhaya Fund' was established for implementation of initiatives aimed at enhancing the safety and security of women in the country. From its inception till 2021-22, the total allocation under the fund has been over Rs 6,000 crore, of which Rs 4,200 crore has been utilised.
A senior official said approximately 70 per cent of the fund has been reported to be utilised.
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An Empowered Committee (EC) of officers constituted under Nirbhaya Framework appraises and recommends the proposals for funding under the fund in conjunction with the concerned ministries/departments/implementing agencies.
Money for enhancing the apparatus for women's safety
In Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Delhi, around Rs 305 crore, Rs 304 crore and Rs 413 crore was utilised till now, respectively, out of the total funds that were released to them. In Telangana Rs 200 crore, Madhya Pradesh Rs 94 crore, and Maharashtra Rs 254 crore were utilised till 2021-22.
The money under the fund has been utilised for establishing one stop centres, making safety devices, setting up fast-track courts and to procure forensic kits for sexual assault cases among others.
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Delay in approvals, disruptions led to underutilisation
When asked why the 30 per cent of the fund remains unutilised, the official said various factors such as time taken in getting required approvals from competent authorities, procedure to be followed for award of contract, disruptions due to unforeseen reasons such as one created by Covid are the main reasons for the delay.
The chapter of 2012 gangrape and murder case of 'Nirbhaya' concluded with the hanging of four convicts last year. Of the six accused, Ram Singh allegedly committed suicide at the Tihar Jail. One of them a juvenile was convicted by a juvenile justice board.
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Women rights activist Ranjana Kumari said the "under-utilisation of the fund shows that there is no commitment for women security in the government. There is mismanagment of the fund and that is why it has not been utilised till now" she said.
Activist Yogita Bhayana said, "It has been 10 years and things are going from bad to worse and women safety is a far-fetched dream and we need to work towards it".
Maharashtra: A case of diversion
Recently, the state of Maharashtra and the Eknath Shinde government were also at the centre of a controversy over the misappropriation of money under the Nirbhaya fund. Media reports indicated that vehicles bought by the state government through the Nirbhaya funds were diverted off for providing Y-plus security to MLAs in the state. This adversely impacted the police's patrolling activities and sparked outrage.
(With inputs from PTI)