The death of Delhi’s braveheart – the moniker given to the 23-year old victim of the horrific December 16 gangrape – might have pushed the government to come out with the landmark anti-rape legislation.
But a slew of measures worth nearly Rs. 1300 crore promised by the Centre to bolster women’s safety in the aftermath of the incident could end up in the deep freezer, thanks to India’s poor record of implementing schemes.
Top among the announcements was the setting up of an Rs. 1000 crore special fund – named “Nirbhaya” after the gangrape victim. Finance minister P Chidambaram announced the creation of the fund during the 2013-14 general budget.
Five months down the line, however, the government is yet to decide on how or what schemes the corpus would be used. “We have written to Planning Commission, the women & child development (WCD) and other stakeholder ministries asking for suggestions,” said a finance ministry official.
The UPA government’s thrust on women’s issues was loud and clear. Chidambaram also allocated an additional R200 crore to the WCD ministry – over and above the Rs. 20,440 crore allocated in 2013-14 – for implementing schemes designed specifically for protecting women – especially single and vulnerable – from gender discrimination and violence.
So far, the ministry has not framed any concrete scheme/proposal for utilising the money.
Urvashi Butalia, feminist author said, “Though they responded under pressure, their intention was good. But I don’t think we can expect anything soon….whether the government is committed and whether they have the wherewithal to implement the schemes is difficult to tell.”
The WCD ministry also promised to launch some of its other ambitious initiatives that were languishing for years.
None of them, including a national helpline for women in distress, setting up of a “One Stop Crisis Centre” to provide support to rape victims, and a compensation and rehabilitation package for rape victims, have taken off.
“We are in the process of finalising the modalities of these initiatives,” a WCD ministry official said on conditions of anonymity.
Retired Delhi high court judge, Justice Usha Mehra, who probed the December 16 gangrape termed the delay as “unfortunate.” “Mere announcements are not sufficient.
If the government is serious to save women from falling prey to heinous crimes, the concerned ministries will have to ensure timely implementation of schemes,” she said.
With elections round the corner, officials admit that implementation of these schemes might get further delayed. “My sense is that the government’s focus will shift to election rather than on women’s issues,” Butalia added.