The current government launched the “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” campaign with much fanfare. Despite the campaign, products and publications that openly promote gender-biased sex selection are advertised on some of the biggest eCommerce websites in India. Several talks by the PM about women empowerment & safety in public spaces, the current government has in reality not done much to support the cause of women in general and safety of women in specific.
Post-Nirbhaya Crisis Centres Scrapped
After the public furor caused by the Nirbhaya rape case in 2012, Justice Verma Committee came up with a document of suggestions to ensure faster justice and better conditions for victims of rape. One of the biggest suggestions of this report were exclusive one stop crisis centres across the country to provide victims with all help required – physical, medical and emotional – immediately. These were supposed to be set up as independent units where victims would be more comfortable walking into and reporting.
According to the Women and Child Development Minister, Maneka Gandhi they were supposed to be set up by the end of December 2014. However, reports started flowing in, in November that the Prime Minister’s Office decided to do away with these centres.
In fact according to the reports, these crisis centres were meant to be built in an area of 300 sq metres with specific requirements and were to be called the Nirbhaya Centre. Apparently the PMO’s office shot this down instead replacing it with a suggestion that civic hospitals could be used as crisis centres because pre-existing infrastructure would entail lesser costs.
Now, the PMO’s office has suggested that there be just one rape crisis center per state and union territory. Like several activists are asking, if a woman gets raped in Jaisalmer, can she go to the crisis center in Jaipur? Basically, the number of centres has been cut down from 660 to just 36!
The money sanctioned under Nirbhaya Fund has not been used
The Nirbhaya Fund was setup in 2013, post the horrific rape and a sum of Rs. 2000 crore was sanctioned under this. This fund was set aside beyond the yearly budgetary allocation was one of its kinds. According to this interview with Ranjana Kumari, director at Centre for Social Research, this sum has been unused almost completely. This sum of money was to be used to set up rape crisis centres and to be used for other kinds of educational measures. So, far the WCD ministry has not consulted any NGOs regarding these funds.
According to news reports from yesterday, the funds for the Nirbhaya centre has also gone from Rs. 244 crore to Rs. 18 crore.
The NCW ‘paralysed’
After Modi came into power, he promptly ensured that the NCW (National Council for Women) chief was also asked to resign. In place, the WCD minister had certain suggestions, but the PMO’s office decided to install Lalitha Kumaramangala, who seems to have a penchant to say all the wrong things, right from endorsing ‘Love Jihad’ as a social issue, to mentioning how autonomy in Indian women is a risk.
However, she has mentioned legalization of sex trade, which seems to be a welcome suggestion. Let us wait and watch whether this is all talk or any action.
Also, the previous NCW chief has publicly mentioned how the NCW in New Delhi is now completely deserted and there is no work happening for empowerment of women.
Despite Modi publicly making several statements about correcting sons, educating daughters and including women, there seems to be very little action in that direction. If anything, the little action that happened in 2012 has been undone by this government.
Featured Image: One of the images from the massive Modi-campaign before elections (this one specifically focused on women) | Twitter