Shocked by the gruesome Nirbhaya rape on December 16, 2012, the central government adopted a number of measures, financial and legal, to enhance the safety of women. But four years since the horrific rape, most of the promises remain on paper or are bound in red tape. A few states have moved ahead, but at a snail’s pace.
Take for instance the `1,000 crore per year allocated to the Nirbhaya Fund for schemes to ensure the safety and security of women. Today the fund languishes in some dusty corner in the government coffers, even as rape numbers continue to rise across the country. Tamil Nadu, for example, claims it has not received the funds. In fact, no proposal has even been sent to the Centre. A senior official in the State’s Social Welfare Department said he didn’t know why a proposal has not sent to Delhi but that one would be drafted by June.
Andhra Pradesh’s implementation of the Nirbhaya initiative also leaves a lot to be desired. The state government hasn’t drawn much from the fund till date. After much bureaucratic delay, the Andhra Pradesh Transport Department in January this year proposed the Abhaya Project and applied to the Central government for Nirbhaya money.
The Abhaya project aims to make transportation safer for women. It’s a `139 crore project with the Centre pitching in with `58 crore. It aims to digitize every driver’s law-and-order history, track cabs and autos by GPS, develop a free mobile app for women and set up a command and control centre to help women in distress.
But having woken up late, the AP government is still only poised to implement the project on a pilot basis in Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada.
“Yes, there is a delay,” admitted a senior official in the AP Transport Department. “However, Abhaya was supposed to be sanctioned in 2016-17, but was delayed.”
Kerala better prepared
Kerala is a happy exception to this trend of state governments not taking up post-Nirbhaya measures with alacrity. The state launched a special project for women and children just six months before the Delhi gang-rape in 2012. Uncannily, the scheme was called Nirbhaya.
Kerala’s emphasis on women’s security is evident from the allocation of `2,316 crore for it in the latest budget, 2017-18. Only about `15 crore has been drawn from the Nirbhaya Fund this fiscal but a big portion of the allocation is to be utilised for construction of Nirbhaya shelter homes for women and children across the state, said social justice director Anupama TV.
The union government unfurled two measures in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya outcry: a `653 crore scheme for safety of women on public road transport administered by the Ministry of Surface Road Transport and Highways; and a `79.6 crore Nirbhaya project under the Home Ministry. As per the Union government’s accounts for 2015-16 — tabled in Parliament in December 2016 — neither of the schemes have taken off, with allocations going unused. What is upsetting is the indifference to funds of the order of `3000 crore that could make India safer for women.
Instead states have been bickering with the central government over the disbursal of compensation funds to rape victims. Karnataka alleges that the Centre is yet to release funds to them.
Bickering with Karnataka
The Karnataka State Legal Services Authority (KSLSA) says that in 2016-17, the state sanctioned `2 crore for victim compensation and disbursed it all. That left 142 cases that still needed to be paid, amounting to `2.31 crore.
Compensation to victims is paid as soon as a crime is registered instead of waiting for the accused to be arrested or convicted. In 2012-13, the year after the Nirbhaya rape, there were no claimants. In the following years, the number has increased. In the 2017-2018 Union Budget, the government increased the Nirbhaya Fund by almost 90 per cent.
As part of the Nirbhaya initiative, the central government supports schemes managed by various agencies like the railways’ Integrated Emergency Response Management System (IERMS), the home ministry’s Emergency Response Support System (ERSS), the Abhaya project of Andhra Pradesh, and the Chirali Friends Forever project in Rajasthan among others. The amount allocated to different projects is `1,530 crore so far but the expenditure has only been `400 crore.There has been disparity in awarding compensation by the Karnataka Victim Compensation Scheme (KVCS) and the Central Victim Compensation Scheme. For instance, the minimum compensation to be paid for a minor rape victim is `3 lakh, as per the central scheme. Under KVCS, that amount is the maximum.
State representatives say the Karnataka government is bearing the expense as Centre has not reimbursed claims. V S Ugrappa, chairperson of the Expert Committee on Preventing Sexual Violence against Women and Children, said not even a single paisa has been released by the central government.
Odisha has a different gripe. The state government has sought funding for its Safe City Project from the Nirbhaya Fund. The `135 crore project that seeks to increase CCTV surveillance, set up dedicated response teams to violence against women and build safeguards for women in the online space.
The project, devised by the Police Commissionerate of Bhubaneswar-Cuttack, was sent to the Ministry of Women and Child Development by the Home Department on December 5, 2016. It is still awaiting sanction. The Safe City Project is the only project proposed by Odisha under the Nirbhaya Fund.
The Bhubaneswar-Cuttack Police Commissionerate is planning to install at least 3,000 CCTVs at commercial complexes, educational institutions and important public places where women are more likely to face safety and security hazards.
The CCTV surveillance is proposed to be mounted at 300 locations in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack while the existing command and control centres are proposed to be upgraded.
The State government constituted a committee of senior IAS and IPS officers, chaired by Poonam Malakondaiah, to look into safety and security of women and girls in September 2014, the year the State was formed year.
Some of the committee’s recommendations were the same as what was suggested by the Justice Verma Committee. Significant among the Malakondaiah Committee’s proposals were the constitution of police units to track hotspots of harassment of women. Another suggestion was to start a fleet of taxis driven by women. While the Verma Committee sought to address social issues, the Malakondaiah panel focused more on physical solutions — including, inexplicably banning mobile phones in schools and restricting computer usage. Recommendations to come to life, however, were the SHE Teams, SHE cabs and setting up of one-stop crisis centres.
Women Development and Child Welfare (WDCW) Department set up the Bharosa Centre on May 7, 2016. With an annual budget of `1 crore, funded by WDCW department, the 24-hour integrated crisis centre provides all forms of support to women and children in distress. A helpline, a woman inspector, a medical facility with a nurse, and six trained and experienced psychologists have dealt with 1931 rape, violence and POCSO cases in the past year.
The fund unplugged
During the 2013-14 budget, the then FM announced setting up of a Nirbhaya Fund for empowerment, safety and security of women and girl children. Ministry of Women and Child Development is the nodal agency to take a call on all proposals. Central government’s contribution was D1000cr as initial corpus. It is a non-lapsable fund. Until last year, it had accumulated D3000cr.
Govt claimed, until Jan 2017, 18 proposals of D2195.97cr were received under this fund, out of which 16 amounting to D2187.47cr have been appraised and recommended by the Empowered Committee.
Funding patern: State project is on a 60/40 basis.
She Teams: These teams of women police officers were set up in all districts in 2014 to deal with sexual harassment of women in public places.
Bharosa Centre: This 24-hour, integrated crisis centre provides all forms of support to distressed women and children. Every rape, POCSO and domestic violence case that comes to a police station in Hyderabad is directed to the Bharosa Centre where a woman police officer is available to help the victim.
Nirbhaya Centre: Every district has one such centre, also called Sakhi Centre, managed by the Women’s Development and Child Welfare Department. However, the services are poor.
State Security Commissions: There is no such commission in Telangana.
E-FIRs: Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Delhi and Haryana have made this facility but not Telangana.
Education reforms: At the school level, there is no separate curriculum on gender sensitisation. However, a book titled Towards a World of Equals aimed at gender education in engineering colleges has been published. Gender-sensitive curriculum was developed by Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies but colleges under Osmania University are yet to implement it.
Victim Compensation: The Karnataka Victim Compensation Scheme pays compensation to victims as soon as a crime is registered instead of waiting for the accused to be arrested or imprisoned. More than D6 crore paid as compensation so far.
CCTVs: CCTVs installed but only in 500 out of 6,211 buses. Not all police stations are CCTV-equipped.
Safety measures: Buses are GPS-tracked but women safety features yet to be added in mobile app.
E-FIRS: There’s a mechanism to file FIRs online but it’s been hampered by server problems.
Police personnel: No significant increase in the number of police personnel on the streets
TO BE DONE
Safe City Project: Odisha’s Nirbhaya initiative is still in the proposal stage. Its Safe City Project seeking D135 crore from the Nirbhaya Fund is awaiting sanction from the central government.
CCTVs: Bhubaneshwar proposes to install at least 3,000 CCTVs.
Shakti Team: One Shakti Team with one assistant sub-inspector, one driver and three constables to be posted at every police station in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack to assist victims.
Gender sensitization: Policemen and civilians are to be trained on gender issues.
Nirbhaya: A special project for women and children launched back in 2012. Allocated D2,316 crore in 2017-18 budget.
Preventive measures: D68.17 crore allotted to tackle gender-based violence.
Safety measures: D12 crore allocated for Pink Police control rooms, self-defence, CCTV cameras in buses
Crisis centres: D19 crore for shelter homes, short stay homes, one stop crisis centres. Plus, D3 crore for SOS Model homes for inmates of Nirbhaya shelters.
State-run schemes: Girl Child Protection Scheme and Marriage Assistance are some of the bigger measures taken up by the state towards helping addressing gender concerns
One-stop centre: A temporary one-stop centre for women at Tambaram provides first aid, medical aid, police assistance, legal aid and counselling support for women.
No proposals sent to the centre to use Nirbhaya funds
One-stop crisis centres: Thirteen Sakhi centres started in the districts to assist women in distress. But they are under-staffed.
CTVs: Forty per cent of police stations have CCTVs.
Mahila rakshaks: Anti-harassment police teams have been set up in Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam and Rajamahendravaram.
Abhaya: D139 crore project to draw funds from Nirbhaya Fund is still in the proposal state referred to the centre.
Two-finger tests: The Supreme Court ordered a stop to this practice but it continues.
Sexuality education: It still is not part of the syllabus. There are no special classes. Sex education is considered covered by the reproduction class in biology. No special gender sensitivity classes too.
Police sensitization: Not a single instance of action taken against policemen refusing to register rape cases.