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‘Disha’ Ominous as Odisha fails ‘Nirbhaya’ Test!

Women safety projects funded under Nirbhaya fumble in Odisha. Be it One Stop Centres (OSC) or Emergency Response Support System (ERSS), State gives a flop show


Bhubaneswar: Now from Hyderabad to Bhubaneswar, a loud chorus ‘We want to be safe, not be raped” renting the skies again as heinous crimes against women, especially rapes, are growing by leaps and bounds in the country, including Odisha.

Recently, replying to a query on women safety, MoS Divyashankar Mishra has reeled out gory statistics. The minister said in first six months (Jan – Jun) of current calendar year, Odisha saw registration of 1,149 rape cases.  And minor rapes constituted a massive 604 or 52 per cent of total rapes. Only yesterday, a minor accused cops of gang raping her in the holy town of Puri.

In an era when fixing accountability is flavour of the season, time seems ripe to incorporate a ‘Right to Safety’ bill akin to much touted Right to Information (RTI) and Right to Education (RTE) bills. Because, a constitutional mandate can only pull out governments from their slumber.

Hard data shows how Odisha failed the Nirbhaya test, like the Telangana government.

Post 2012 barbarism, a fund on woman safety  called ‘Nirbhaya’ was launched by Union government in 2013.

Under Nirbhaya Fund, Centre invited projects from States/UTs having features like direct impact on safety and security concerns of women, optimum use of existing infrastructure, innovative use of technology, no duplication of existing government schemes/ programmes, provision for real time intervention as far as possible and a defined monitoring mechanism.

While in a span of three years (2016-19), 59 project proposals submitted to Union Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry, Odisha could submit a single proposal – the ‘Safe City Project’ in Commissionerate Police, Bhubaneswar-Cuttack. For not submitting a detailed project report, Centre didn’t release any fund for the project.

Under this project, in 2018-19, Centre released over Rs 633 crore for 8 cities in states like Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telengana, TN, UP, WB and Delhi.

It’s the lack of an emergency response support system for women in distress that failed Nirbhaya, and has also failed ‘Disha’.

The hurting fact is Nirbhaya Fund has a scheme called Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) in place to secure the distress hours.

While Telangana fared poor in implementing the scheme, Odisha fared worse. Centre released Rs 9.49 crore to Odisha in 2016-17. The State failed to utilise a single penny till date. The reason: Odisha is yet to implement it.

Moreover, the Centre has released an one-time grant of Rs 10.6 crore to  Odisha under the scheme Central Victim Compensation Fund (CVCF) in year 2016-17. Utilisation tiil date stands a big zero in Odisha. This hints at the fact that State is not providing compensation to the rape victims.

Also, when State is increasingly witnessing a spurt in cyber crime against women, especially uploading of obscene photos and making it viral in social media, the Centre under the scheme Cyber Crime Prevention against Women & Children (CCPWC) released Rs 2.62 crore to Odisha in 2016-17, but utilisation again is nil.

Odisha also received another Rs 9.99 crore for operationalisation of One Stop Centre scheme and Rs 1.92 crore for universalising the women helpline.

While State could utilise a meagre Rs 1.45 crore till date, the utilisation under women helpline stood at Rs 1.41 crore.

The result: When a total of 30 One Stop Centres have been sanctioned for Odisha, only 4 are functional.

What is the utility of One Stop Centres? It facilitates access to services like medical aid, police assistance, legal aid/case management, psycho-social counselling & temporary support services to women affected by violence.

The fallout is obvious. Conviction rate in crime against women is mere 7.4 per cent in Odisha – fifth lowest in country.

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