As women's safety continues to be a cause for concern in Uttar Pradesh, here's a shocker: An activist has found that the Akhilesh Yadav government has drastically downsized the budget of the state women's commission but has the money for two seven-seater Mercedes cars and two similar Land Cruisers.
A Right to Information (RTI) question posed by social activist Urvashi Sharma revealed that through the last three years, the Samajwadi Party government has slashed the budgetary allocations made to the state women's commission.
The state government informed that between 2011-12 and 2013-14, the budget of the women's panel was cut by over 85%. In 2011-12, the commission got Rs. 5.1 crore in financial grants and this went down to Rs. 4.16, crore of which Rs. 3.9 crore was spent.
In 2013-14, the allocation was further slashed to a mere Rs.75 lakh. Urvashi Sharma told IANS she was "amazed" at the replies to her petition. "This is the state of affairs in a government where no one, from the top political leadership to the bureaucracy, misses any chance to hype their pro-women image," she rued.
Sharma wondered if there were financial constraints, from where was the government finding money for the Mercedes and the Land Cruisers for the 41-year-old chief minister, who is currently on a family holiday in London. "This is simply bizarre and shocking," said women's rights activist Neelam Ranjan. She said the Samajwadi Party had always had a "pathetic" record on women's empowerment.
"Though I find this budget cut shocking, coming from the Samajwadi government, the pain is minmized because it is a government where its national president calls rape 'small mistakes', its chief minister refuses to visit rape victims and a minister says he cannot have gun-totting security for every woman in the state," Ranjan told IANS. Vijay Bahadur Pathak, state spokesman of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), slammed the budget cuts, and said the government had no concern for the people, especially women.
"The lesser said about this government the better, there is a yawning gap between its promises and delivery," Pathak told IANS. Swamy Prasad Maurya of the Bahujan Samaj Party and leader of opposition in the state assembly, accused the Akhilesh Yadav government of "turning a complete blind eye to women" in the state. RTI activist Sharma said women from far-off places like Poorvanchal and Bundelkhand were finding it difficult to get justice from the commission, as neither were there funds nor the will to redress problems faced by women in the state.
According to statistics, five rapes occurred every day in the state, but most officials prefer to call such henious crimes "routine" and "unavaoidable".