Panel notes ‘gross underutilization’ of Nirbhaya Fund

A parliamentary panel, again noting the gross underutilization of the Nirbhaya Fund, said the fund should not be used by other ministries to build routine infrastructure. The panel also noted that despite repeated recommendations, so far only 30% of the Fund has been utilized.

The Nirbhaya Fund is a corpus formed following the gang rape of a young paramedic on the streets of Delhi in December 2012. The corpus funds safety programs for women and the union ministry of women’s development and of the child is the nodal ministry that monitors the use.

“The Committee recalls that in its various recommendations, it has stressed the need for effective use of the Nirbhaya Fund. Despite the legal frameworks and various institutions put in place, violence against women has not diminished and the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the situation of women in the country,” it reads. in the report.

In the report, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sport reiterated the recommendations of its 334th report.

The panel said that out of the allocated funds of Rs 9549 crores, of which Rs 4241 crores have been released so far, the funds utilized under the Nirbhaya Fund so far stand at around Rs 2989 crores.

“The Committee also recommends that the ministries concerned put in place a robust mechanism for constant monitoring of the projects/programmes they manage. In addition, guidelines can be prepared to ensure that this fund is not used to create routine infrastructure, which even otherwise relevant departments must undertake,” the panel recommended.

Underspending of funds was also noted in the other programs of the WCD ministry. The panel noted that under Mission Vatsalya, the section that reviews the ministry’s programs for children, utilization stood at just over 30% of budget estimates.

The Committee said the budget estimate for Mission Vatsalya was Rs 900 crore, which has been revised to Rs 829.65 crore. However, the allowance used was Rs 286.57, which is only 34.54% of the revised estimates. The budget estimate for 2022-23 is Rs 1472.17 crore.

“The Committee notes that Mission Vatsalya has a total financial involvement of Rs 10,916 crore, with a central share of Rs 6,928 crore and a state share of Rs 3,988 crore…over the past 5 years, the total allocation in under the Child Protective Services (CPS) scheme was Rs 3,852 crore, which shows an increase of about 63.68% in the allocation under the Vatsalya mission compared to the CPS scheme.

The committee asked the ministry to commission an independent assessment to fill in the gaps.

“The Committee is of the view that since children have been recognized by policy makers as one of the supreme national assets and India is home to 472 million children up to the age of 18, who account for 39 % of the country’s population, it would be prudent for the ministry to obtain an independent assessment of how to use resources, allocations, coordination with state governments, issues impeding effective implementation so that the objectives of the Vatsalya Mission can be fully realized with the improved budget allocation,” the panel noted report.

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