The Nirbhaya fund announced in 2012 in the aftermath of the gang rape case in Delhi, to reduce violence against women, goes “underused”, says a new report by NGO Oxfam India. The report highlights that since its inception, the fund has received annual additions that go underutilized and underfunded.
Former finance minister P. Chidambaram announced the fund in his 2013-2014 budget and allocated ₹1,000 crore to the fund.
The annual budgetary requirement stands at ₹10,000-11,000 crore to be directed only towards schemes that benefit women. However, the recent 2021-22 budget does not even allocate 25 per cent of what is required.
Most of the Nirbhaya fund has gone to the home ministry, police, railway, roads, etc. “The money has largely paid for programs — improving emergency response services, upgrading forensic labs or expanding units fighting cyber crimes — that don’t exclusively benefit women,” Amita Pitre of Oxfam India told the BBC.
Money has been directed towards better lighting, more CCTV cameras, safer public transport and a research grant to test panic buttons in vehicles. However, Pitre highlights that “People want technology-based answers, but that won’t help in 80 per cent of cases where the accused are people known to women”.
A lot of other departments have not even used the fund.
For example, the federal women and child development ministry only used up 20 per cent of the fund provided up to 2019 to set up crisis centers for rape or domestic violence survivors, shelters for women, female police volunteers and a women’s helpline.
The report also states that “The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 has almost no allocation”. While shelters and schemes do exist, they lack the funding and staff to follow through.
However, funding is just one aspect of this. Gender sensitization training, awareness and reforms to deal with the ingrained misogyny and patriarchy, empowering women and changing mindsets form a major part of the solution too.