A tokenism for Women’s Safety: The Nirbhaya Fund
During the Union Budget presentation of 2013, Finance Minister P.Chidambaram announced:
“Recent incidents have cast a long, dark shadow on our liberal and progressive credentials. As more women enter public space – for education or work or access to services of leisure – there are more reports of violence against them…
…We stand in solidarity with our girl children and women. And we pledge to do everything possible to empower them and to keep them safe and secure…
…These deserve our support. As an earnest of our commitment to these objectives, I propose to set up a fund – let us call it the Nirbhaya Fund – and government will contribute Rs 1,000 crore,”
Nirbhaya was a pseudonym given to the Delhi rape victim of December 16 to hide her real identity.
Now, following are two major spending by the government as proposed in the Union Budget:
- Total expenditure of 16.68 trillion INR
- Planned defence expenditure of 2.03 trillion INR
With so much money in the government coffer to spend, the Nirbhaya Fund seems to be just a peanut amount for its objective. In a country with more than 600 million women, it is a token of 16 INR for each of them (under the assumption that all the money is properly utilised and not pocketed by the officials!!).
The Nirbhaya Fund is meant to tighten security for women in lone areas and dark lanes; include more lady police in service; spread awareness amongst the people and provide medical assistance to victims of sexual crimes. The government also plans to set up a women bank with this fund. Unfortunately, with more than 20,000 rape cases and 200,000 cases of crime against women reported every year, this fund will be useful only to a small fraction of the helpless victims if such crimes continue to happen. We know the story of one Nirbhaya but forget that there are thousands of Nirbhayas in this country who are victims of the demon in men; whom the leaders of our nation seem to ignore.
This is an initiative which has been taken to pacify the anger of the public. How can a tiny amount of 16 INR ensure the safety of a woman when she ventures out alone? Also Chidambaram did not specifically mention the strategies to implement the fund and asked the government officials to cooperate. Activists claim that such funds had been promised earlier but had remained unused. Will the Nirbhaya Fund serve its purpose to whatever extent it can or will it provide another opportunity for a scam and feed the greedy pockets of some corrupt officials?
Frankly speaking, a tiny assurance in form of fund is not exactly what the country needs right now. The call for the hour is radical change in policies and harsher punishments for the accused. The long term objective should be changing the mind-set of the people and prejudices associated with such crimes. We see that 2 trillion INR will be spent to defend the country against foreign invasion but what about fighting the demon in the minds of its own people?
Only time will tell whether the Nirbhaya Fund will be utilised properly or not… Or will this money rot in the government coffers and get devoured by corruption???