Has Nirbhaya fund helped Delhi to amp up safety in the city?

In a city with a high crime rate against women, it is of concern on how the centre uses its money for women’s safety and security initiatives, and to create a safe space

Delhi has till now, under the Nirbhaya fund, received Rs 400.35 crores. The capital city was where the December 2012 brutal rape took place, with the victim being named ‘Nirbhaya’, on whose given namesake the fund was announced in 2013 for women’s safety and security initiatives.

While the city has been approved a total of Rs 702.83 crores till now, over Rs 300 crores less has reached it. This information is according to responses in the Lok Sabha by Minister of Home Affairs, K Muraleedharan on the allocation and utilisation of the fund. In total, under Nirbhaya fund, schemes or projects worth Rs 9,288.45 crore have been appraised till date in the country. At the same time, an amount of Rs 5,712.85 crore has been allocated and an amount of Rs 3,544.06 crore has been disbursed or released by the concerned ministries and departments.

This year, like the last, the union budget has allocated Rs 500 crore for the Nirbhaya fund.

So how has the Nirbhaya fund been used in the city itself? We reached out to the Delhi government, but are yet to receive a response. We know that in 2019, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said his government received Rs 65 crore for Sakhi One stop Centres. One Stop Centres (OSC) are intended to support women affected by violence, in private and public spaces, within the family, community and at the workplace.

According to the list of the Women and Child Development ministry, there is one centre at every district set up. Other than these 11 centres there are six others, one each in the district courts of Delhi.

Interestingly while the Nirbhaya fund is so that the state can create a safe public space, the Centre had rejected the proposal of the Delhi government seeking funds to install CCTV cameras and panic buttons in 5,500 DTC and cluster buses.

In this year’s budget, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia announced an outlay of Rs 200 crore for installation of CCTV cameras. He said that about 1.32 lakh cameras including command control centre (CCC) have been installed and made functional till now. In his last budget speech in 2020, Sisodia had said that by installing CCTV and employing marshals in the buses, the public transport system has been made safer for the women.

But there are still many more CCTVs required in a city riddled with crime. According to a UK-based firm called Comparitech which reviews technology services, Delhi has about four lakh CCTVs for over three crore of populations (429,500 cameras for 30,290,390 population) bringing it to 14.18 cameras per 1,000 individuals.

Anuradha Tyagi, who has been working for the welfare of women and children in Delhi’s North-West district for over 23 years says equipping every street corner with CCTVs is vital. “The government has said many times it will make streets safe but even in my area in Bhagya Vihar (in Mubarakpur Dabas) there is no CCTV. And the street lights work on and off.”

After a rape and murder case in the area in 2013, she says people of her street had asked for a CCTV but have yet to be provided with one. She also points out that their closest police station, Prem Nagar is 4 kms away. “We need to at least have a police booth around. These are at least some things the government must look into,” she adds.

In a city with daily crimes against women, it is of concern on how the centre and the state use its money in creating a safe space. From the Rs 8,644.12 crore allocated to Delhi Police in this year’s Union Budget for financial year 2021-22, Rs 10 crore has been set aside for Nirbhaya Fund.

Oxfam’s report released this February “Towards violence free lives for women: Tracking of union budgets (2018-21) for violence services” also spoke of these funds and how they were being used. It questioned the actual utilisation on the ground, which it said seemed to be a challenge. “For example, while Delhi here reports 100% utilisation, the fact is that of the 58.5 crores from Nirbhaya funds received by Delhi Police for safety of women only INR 27.39 crores (47%) had been utilised until 31 January 2020”.

It also said that what was also of concern was the trend of low releases for One Stop Centre and Fast Track Special Courts. With the current average fund release rate for these major projects being around 29%. While the Ministry of Finance provided an amount of Rs 4357.62 crores under the Nirbhaya Fund (MWCD Annual Report, 2019-20), Oxfam found that nearly 73% was allocated to the Ministry of Home Affairs (Police), while some Ministries like Health, Education and Urban Development have not even put forward proposals in the first place.

According to the NCRB report of 2019, Delhi witnessed 3,672 incidents of kidnapping and abduction of women, and 1253 cases of rape (Sec. 376 IPC). Furthermore 2,355 ‘Assault on Women with Intent to Outrage her Modesty’ (Sec. 354 IPC) were reported, and 456 incidents of ‘Insult to the Modesty of Women’ (Sec. 509 IPC).

 (Cover: Women wearing face masks as a precaution against the spread of Covid 19, as they shop in the crowded market at sadar bazar // Credit: Getty Images)

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