New Delhi: They were supposed to be a one-stop facility for survivors of rape and sexual violence. But five years after they were announced, the 'one stop centres' that were meant to provide medical, legal and psychological assistance seem to be in need of help.
Of the 660 centres proposed by the centre in 2013, when the government announced the Nirbhaya scheme after the horrific gangrape of a paramedic student in Delhi, funds have been allocated for 151 such centres.
In the national capital that reported the highest cases of crimes against women in 2016 as per government data, nine such centres are operational, including one at the government-run Safdarjung Hospital. It's the same hospital where Nirbhaya was brought after she was gangraped and brutalised in a moving bus on one of Delhi's roads in December 2012. But even the security guards posted at the gate here had no clue about the one stop centre. "Never heard of it, what is it for?" asked of them.
At the gynaecology department, an isolated lobby leads us to a room that has a printout marked 'one stop centre'. Inside, some empty beds and dumped old furniture.
At the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), home to another such centre, guards at the Emergency were equally clueless. We found a little unoccupied cabin that said 'one stop counselling centre'. "No one at the one-stop centre?" we asked a doctor.
"Oh, the counselling room, there is one room which we open when requested, go there and talk to the sister," came the reply. "Is there any legal, psychiatric help there?" we asked further. "We don't know, go check with the sister," was the response.
The one stop centres derive funds from the Nirbhaya scheme that was set up with an initial corpus of Rs 1,000 crore in the annual Budget 2013-14. A year later, the government allocated an equal amount. The next year, no fund was given to the scheme. In the Budget for 2016-17, Rs 550 was earmarked, an a similar amount the next year as well. And this year's budgetary allocation of Rs 500 crore takes the total fund to Rs 3600 crore, of which Rs 191 crore was spent in 2016. The unused funds stand at Rs 3,409 crore.
Over the years, 18 proposals amounting to Rs 2,195.97 cr were made by several states and union territories. Sixteen of these were approved by the special parliamentary committee which sanctions the allocations. But even that money has gone unused, according to parliamentary papers.
Last month, the Supreme Court asked the centre and states to file a status report on why exactly the Nirbhaya Fund was unutilised. The governments have been told to file their replies on February 15.