Tajamul Islam, VALE Fellow at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy and Contributor, Nyaaya
The Government of India established the Nirbhaya Fund in response to the Nirbhaya Case in 2013. It is aimed specifically at projects for improving women’s safety and security and is managed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD),
The Empowered Committee (EC), which is composed of officials from several ministries and is chaired by the Secretary of the MWCD, recommends programmes/schemes for funding under Nirbhaya Fund. Since Nirbhaya Fund’s founding, the EC has approved programmes worth Rs. 9764.30 crore. You can read more about the Framework for Nirbhaya Fund here.
Major Projects under the Fund:
Central Victim Compensation Fund (CVCF)
The Central Victim Compensation Fund (CVCF) is established with a corpus of Rs. 200. crore. Under the Nirbhaya Fund, victim compensation is one of the largest projects, which provides financial assistance to women who have suffered loss or injury as a result of any offense or violence against women. The CVFC is made available as a one-time grant in each State and UT in order to support and enhance the victim compensation programmes.
One Stop Centers (OSCs)
One Stop Centers (OSCs) have been established under the Nirbhaya Fund at a total cost of Rs. 868.76 crore . They are also known as Sakhi Centres. Since April 1, 2015, One Stop Centers have been helping women affected by violence access an integrated range of services such as police, medical, legal, psychological support, and temporary shelter. 730 One Stop Centers or Sakhi Centers are currently operational across 36 States and UTs. You can read more about this project here.
Universalization of Women Helpline (WHL)
The Ministry of Women and Child Development approved the Women Helpline initiative at a total cost of Rs. 27.76 crore. WHLs work in coordination with the OSCs in 730 districts across the country. Since April 1, 2015, the Scheme of Universalization of Women HelpLine has been operational. Its goal is to offer women experiencing violence a 24-hour emergency and non-emergency response through referral services (linking with the appropriate authority, such as the police, One Stop Center, or hospital) and by disseminating information about women welfare schemes and programmes across the nation through a single uniform number (181). As on 30.09.2022, they have given assistance to over 88 lakh women. You can read more about this project here.
Mahila Police Volunteer (MPV)
Nirbhaya Fund provides funding for establishing and empowering MPVs. They are expected to assist women in need and serve as a liaison between the community and the police. In order to combat crime against women and report incidences of violence against women, includingdomestic abuse, child marriage, dowry harassment, and violence experienced by women in public settings, MPVs act as a public police interface.
Safe City Project
The Empowered Committee under Nirbhaya Fund has approved Rs. 2,919.55 crore for expanding the infrastructure of police in eight selected cities (Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai). The Safe City project aims to create a safe, secure and empowering environment for women in public places. It also aims to prevent and curb all forms of crimes against women and girl children in public places by providing safer urban infrastructure and efficient access to law enforcement agencies.
Cyber Crime Prevention against Women & Children (CCPWC)
Cyber Crime Portal was introduced as part of the CCPWC project which has a budget of Rs. 195.83 crore, to protect women and children from online crimes. The portal gets complaints from users regarding inappropriate internet content relating to child pornography, child sexual abuse material, and sexually explicit material such as rape and gang rape. It allows complainants to file reports of incidents without revealing their identities.
Establishment of a State of the Art DNA Laboratory
Under the Nirbhaya Fund, a sum of Rs. 189.45 Crore stands approved for improving DNA analysis, cyber forensics, and associated capabilities in 20 States.The EC has approved spending of Rs. 99.76 crore from the Nirbhaya Fund to establish a State of Art DNA analysis facility at the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) in Chandigarh. For the quick resolution of cases involving sexual assault and POCSO Act-related offences, this laboratory has the capacity and capability to examine 2000 DNA crime cases annually. The Laboratory has been active since December 23, 2019.
8. Setting up and Strengthening of Anti Human Trafficking Units (AHTU’s)
The Ministry of Home Affairs has approved a scheme for setting up and strengthening of the Anti Human Trafficking Units in all Districts of States and UTs under Nirbhaya Fund at a cost of Rs. 100 crore. The AHTUs are headed by trained police officials and comprise officers from Women and Child Welfare Department in the District and/or other relevant line departments. It may also include local NGOs and experts in the field of human trafficking. These AHTUs offer support and counsel victims of trafficking and maintain a database of trafficking in the district.
Integrated Emergency Response Management Systems (IERMS)
The Ministry of Railways, Integrated Emergency Response Management Systems (IERMS) are being established under the Nirbhaya Fund at a total cost of Rs.500.00 crore. 983 important railway stations are getting CCTVs and monitoring rooms constructed so that ladies passengers are given security around-the-clock. For the installation of CCTV cameras at Konkan Railway Station, a sum of Rs. 17.64 crore has also been appraised under the Nirbhaya Fund.
The pilot project Abhaya has been approved by the Ministry of Highways and Road Transport, at a total cost of Rs. 138.49 crore. It provides for the trial installation of “IoT” (Internet of Things) devices and related software for women and female children during travel, in order to track panic triggers in public transportation vehicles like auto rickshaws, etc. in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
Fast Track Special Courts
The Ministry of Justice has approved Rs. 767.25 Crore under Nirbhaya Fund for setting up of Fast Track Special Courts. Additional amount of Rs. 1687.95 Cr. has been approved under Nirbhaya Fund for extension of the Scheme of Fast Track Special Courts for a period of two more years i.e. 2020-21 and 2021-22. Since the formulation of the Scheme, 823 FTSCs including 363 exclusive POCSO Courts have been approved/sanctioned by States/UTs. Till 30.11.2020, 603 FTSCs including 325 exclusive POCSO Courts have been set up and are functional.
Gaps in allocation and utilisation of Nirbhaya Funds:
According to the study conducted by Vidhi Center for Legal Policy, even though the Nirbhaya Fund is covering about 40 projects/schemes across multiple ministries, just three projects ( Safe City project, Setting up of FTSCs and ePOCSOs and OSCs) have received an appraisal, accounting for about 64% of the Fund. The largest component of the fund amounting to Rs. 2919.55 crore is allocated to the Safe City project which covers only eight metropolitan cities. The unequal distribution of funding is also shown in the state wise distribution of funds, where only seven states have received about 60% of the total.
Oxfam India also reported that India’s general lack of political will to take action to promote gender safety may be the cause of the Nirbhaya Fund’s underutilisation. The report also addresses budgetary issues, noting that “One of the biggest problems with all women-specific schemes is that budgets are substantially under-utilised. This leads to a circular logic of reducing the Revised Estimates (RE) for the current year and Budget Estimates (BE) for the subsequent year, as lesser the utilisation, lower the allocation.”