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Nirbhaya fund gets Rs 1000cr top-up

New Delhi, Feb. 17: Finance minister P. Chidambaram today set aside Rs 1,000 crore for the Nirbhaya fund started last year in memory of the December 16 gang-rape victim, though the previous allocation has not been used at all.

“Last year, I had made three promises and I had asked members to keep before them the faces of the girl child, the young student and the poor. To ensure the dignity and safety of women, I promised the Nirbhaya fund and put Rs 1,000 crore into the fund,” Chidambaram said in his budget speech.

“So far, we have approved two proposals that will receive support from the fund. In order to make it clear that the fund will be a permanent fund, I intend to declare the grant of Rs 1,000 crore as non-lapsable,” he added, allocating the same amount in this year’s budget.

The finance ministry has so far approved two project proposals, one from the home ministry and the other from the road ministry, but funds are yet to be disbursed for implementing the schemes.

The first scheme to be cleared under the Nirbhaya fund was the road ministry’s proposal to map routes of public vehicles, track vehicles on the road and highlight violations through visual and text signals among others.

Under this scheme, a 24x7 emergency response unit will be able to track people in distress through geographical positioning systems, which relay real-time data to a central control room.

Earlier this month, the cabinet committee on economic affairs had approved the home ministry’s Rs 321.69-crore proposal to establish an integrated computer-aided dispatch platform in 114 cities.

Activists were, however, sceptical. “There is no reason to welcome this (Nirbhaya) fund. Money allocated for the fund hasn’t been used and I don’t hope for much with just three months left for elections. This government needs to be serious about women’s issues first. Look how they have delayed the women’s reservation bill,” activist Ranjana Kumari said.

The women and child development (WCD) ministry, which had lobbied to be the nodal ministry for the fund but lost out to the finance ministry, is finally ready with its own scheme for a pie of the Rs 1,000-crore fund. Shubh, the cabinet note for which is ready, concentrates on providing support to the vulnerable, generating awareness through sustained campaigns against violence and advocacy.

“These are all political stunts. Earlier, we had taken rape victims to meet the WCD minister as well as the home minister and they told us they have no funds for their rehabilitation. With the Nirbhaya Fund last year, we were hopeful, but again the money hasn’t been used,” said women’s rights activist Jagmati Sangwan. “What is the point of allocating money when it won’t be used?”

Boost for forces

The Union home ministry has got a 23.6 per cent raise in its allocation in the interim budget.

The sum has gone up from Rs 52,543 crore for the current fiscal to a proposed Rs 64,984.13 crore for 2014-15.

Of this, the police budget will be Rs 59,387.53 crore, an increase of over 21 per cent. From this kitty, Rs 11,009 crore is to be spent for modernisation of paramilitary forces.

Chidambaram clarified that the “funds have been provided for the current financial year and for the next year”.