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Panel pulls up govt over underutilisation of Nirbhaya Fund

Deepak Razdan/SNS | New Delhi |

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs on Wednesday said the Rs.1000 crore Nirbhaya Fund to address issues of women’s safety and security was “severely underutilised,” and was being used for miscellaneous expenditure in the absence of proper schemes.

In its report on the Ministry’s budgetary demands for 2017-18, the Committee said the surprising situation existed when the Ministry admitted to the Committee that women’s safety, along with increasing cyber-crime, were the new challenges before the country.

The government informed the Committee, headed by former Home Minister P Chidambaram, that it was assisting state governments in setting up investigative units for crime against women, utilising the Nirbhaya Fund. The Fund is financing a Central sector scheme “Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Children (CCPWC) with an outlay of Rs
195.83 crores for the next three years.

The Parliamentary Committee has expressed concern that excluding the transfers to Union Territories, the Home Ministry’s budgetary allocation for 2017-18 was Rs 84553.30 crores against the Ministry’s demand for Rs 108270.13 crores. The “shortfall” in the allocation was almost 22 per cent. The nominal increase in the allocation from the
last year’s revised provision of Rs 79460 crores “may not be even sufficient to offset the impact” of the 7th Pay Commission recommendations and inflationary pressures, the Committee said.

What worried the Committee more seriously was the gross under-utilisation of funds for Plan schemes for the Ministry
throughout the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17). Almost every year, important divisions of the Ministry including Border Management, Disaster Management, the two Police divisions and one on Internal Security had surrendered huge amounts of funds by the year-end.

“In some cases the surrendered funds were to the tune of 50 per centand above which is a clear indication of incoherent planning, lack of conviction and inefficient functioning of the Divisions.”

Some of theMinistry divisions, the Committee said, were unable to utilise their funds even after substantial cuts by the Finance Ministry at the revised estimates (RE) stage.

This could have “direct ramifications on the country’s security and law and order situation". The committee said, “This is quite inexcusable as failure to absorb the funds even after surrendering 40 to 60 per cent of the budgetary allocations at the RE stage is an indicator of underperformance.”

While taking evidence from Delhi Police, the committee asked its officers why most of the funds for safety of women remained unutilised. The Committee said the premier police force must take steps to popularise the Himmat App in Hindi also so that it can effectively help women in distress.