New Delhi: In the aftermath of the gruesome 2012 Delhi gang-rape, a whopping sum of Rs 1000 crore was allocated to the Nirbhaya Fund meant to be used for the protection of women. Former finance minister P. Chidambaram had announced the fund in 2013 with the sole purpose of ‘protecting the dignity and ensuring the safety of women in India.’ Ideally, the amount would contribute to setting up of helplines, crisis centres, gender sensitisation training programmes to empower women. Also Read - Mission Shakti: Noida Police Asks Public to Identify 'Dark Spots' in The City to Ensure Women Safety

However, 8 years later, a new report by NGO Oxfam India says that the funds have largely been underutilized and not reaching the women it’s meant to safeguard.

Money not reaching women

According to the report, nearly 73 per cent of the allocations have gone to the Home Ministry, and it’s unclear as to where the funds are being allocated and how much of it is actually spent on women. The money has gone into buildings roads and railways, part of it to improve lighting on roads and railway stations, setting up more CCTV cameras, and for a research grant to test panic buttons in vehicles. However, these measures do not exclusively benefit women, according to the report.

“The money has largely paid for programmes, improving emergency response services, upgrading forensic labs or expanding units fighting cyber crimes — that don’t exclusively benefit women,” Amita Pitre of Oxfam India told the BBC. “People want technology-based answers – but that won’t help in 80% of cases where the accused are people known to women,” Pitre added.

The same had also been criticised by Nirbhaya’s mother, Asha Devi in 2017, who had said, “The Nirbhaya Fund should have been used for women’s security and empowerment but it is being used for works like road construction.”

Funds underfunded and underutilised

Meanwhile, less than 20 per cent was allocated to women and child development ministry, out of which only three to five per cent has been utilised and the rest remain evidently underused. As per the BBC report, WCD used only 20% of the money it had received up to 2019, accounting for about a quarter of the total Nirbhaya Fund spending since 2013.

More so, other state governments have largely remained non-chalant and have hardly used the cash for its primary purpose. Many states like West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh have used less than 25 per cent of the funds allocated to them.

By Oxfam’s calculations, the Nirbhaya Fund is underfunded too, and it needs $1.3bn to allow even 60% of women dealing with any form of violence to be able to access services.

Is this how we safeguard women?