New Delhi, Aug. 25: After the December 16 gang rape in Delhi, the Centre had shown great alacrity in announcing schemes for women’s safety. Since then, it has displayed great sloth in implementing them.
Last February, finance minister P. Chidambaram’s announcement of a Rs 1000-crore Nirbhaya fund for women’s safety was welcomed with much bench-thumping by legislators. Almost six months have passed since then, but the fund remains only on paper.
Sources said the women’s ministry, one of the nodal agencies for the fund, was undecided till last month on the kind of project proposal to draw up — whether to base it on victim rehabilitation or country-wide awareness campaigns on violence against women.
It is believed to have been told by the finance ministry to propose a campaign-based plan which, sources indicated, could be done in the next seven days.
But that will only be the first step. The ministries of health, home, road and railway have also been asked to draw up proposals and send them to the finance ministry. The shape of the final proposal will be decided after all the suggestions are discussed.
Asked about the status of the fund, women’s minister Krishna Tirath said her proposals were awaiting the finance ministry’s approval.
“The Nirbhaya fund is with the finance ministry. Proposals have been sent to different ministries. Once they are approved, work will begin,” she said yesterday.
Sources said that after the photojournalist’s gang rape in Mumbai rocked Parliament last week, Congress president Sonia Gandhi sternly told Tirath to get on with the fund proposal and roll it out as soon as possible.
Another scheme, announced after the December gang rape and rolled out in Delhi, now seems to have been relegated to the background. The telecom ministry had launched a national women’s helpline, 181, in January 2013 but it has yet to be made operational nationwide.
“We have written to states to start the helpline but to no avail. The helpline also seems to have become a political tool in some states. Some states have launched their own helplines with their chosen numbers, thereby negating the very idea of a national helpline,” said a telecom ministry official.
Telecom minister Kapil Sibal had also announced a wristwatch safety device but the scheme has yet to see the light of day.
Under the scheme, the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing was to have developed a wristwatch-cum-safety device, which would enable a woman wearing it to send out a distress signal along with her location at the push of a button.
The watch was to run on both Java- and Android-based applications, have a multi-lingual voice command system, a text-based SOS sender and a URL-based alert and tracking system.
Another big announcement was the setting up of fast-track courts. The government has planned 1,800 such courts to deal with cases of violence against women but only 79 have been set up. Sources said those set up are hobbled by a shortage of judges. In fact, the December 16 gang rape case is still being tried in a fast-track court.
The government had also approved Rs 9 crore for a one-stop crisis centre for victims of sexual violence and Rs 75 crore for a compensation scheme for rape victims. Both are still stuck in government files.