Eight months after the Delhi gang rape case, which had shocked the entire nation and forced the government to take some radical steps to ensure the safety of women, comes another shocker.
A CAG report reveals that the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) hadn’t utilised a single rupee from the Relief to and Rehabilitation of Rape Victims’ scheme between 2009 and 2012. The Rs239.02 crore-provision, which was released by the finance ministry over three years, had been lying in the WCD coffers because of the ministry’s failure to secure the Planning Commission’s approval for the scheme. Yet another case of poor coordination among the several departments of the government, which has also affected other gender-related initiatives aimed at creating and financing self-help groups.
What’s termed as a government logjam has, meanwhile, impacted thousands of victims of a crime in which the conviction rate is abysmally poor. According to the National Crime records Bureau statistics, between 2009 and 2012, the total number of rape cases reported was 92,698. That’s merely a fraction of the actual number because most cases go unreported, especially in rural India. The reason: victims’ fear of social stigma and ostracisation.
Notwithstanding its lip service to victims of sexual violence, society doesn’t treat them with any compassion. If anything, the tendency is to put the blame on the woman for provoking a man to commit violence on her. A rape victim is treated with suspicion. She is the woman with questionable morals.
There are other forms of violence as well, such as dowry deaths, domestic violence and cruelty by husband and relatives, which, though punishable by law, seldom lead to conviction.
The logjam also reflects the government’s outlook towards rape, which, to put it mildly, isn’t a matter of grave priority for the ruling dispensation. When the young physiotherapist was raped and murdered in a moving bus in Delhi last year, the Centre hadn’t expected such genuine expressions of outrage over a crime that’s common in both urban and rural India.
Since then, it has come up with a slew of measures, including a tougher anti-rape law, and a Rs1,000-crore Nirbhaya fund, named after the victim, in the last budget, for the safety and empowerment of women.
But laws and funds alone cannot make up for the lack of political will. Had the government been serious about the plight of victims, it should have tried to address the Planning Commission’s concerns between 2009 and 2012 and ensured that the money reached the recipients.
One is tempted to ask if the Nirbhaya fund too would suffer a similar fate. Going by the Centre’s dismal track record, it needs a prodding, especially from the Supreme Court, once in a while — such as curbing the sale of acid — to get its act together in matters that have a direct bearing on the lives of citizens.