WCD Ministry: More of promises, less of implementation

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For Maneka Gandhi’s Women and Child Development Ministry, 2016 comes to an end not with a bang but with a whimper as many tall promises were marred by institutional delays.

Maneka Gandhi
Union minister Maneka Gandhi at the Press conference on one Year Modi Govt in new Delhi on Tuesday. Express Photo by Prem Nath Pandey. 02.06.2015.

A slew of big-ticket measures on ensuring safety for women were announced within months of Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking over but many of those remain poorly executed.

The provision of One Stop Centres (OSCs) under the Nirbhaya Fund was aimed at providing support to survivors of sexual crimes. At the start, in 2015, a lofty target of 660 centres – one for each district – was set. This had to be implemented in phases.

The ministry announced setting up of 36 such centres in the first phase. In the second phase, launched in May 2016, an additional 150 OSCs had to be set up.

To be able to accomplish this, Maneka announced that five-six new centres would be launched every month.

Fast forward to December 2016, there are a mere 20 OSCs on the ground. This figure is as per the ministry’s reply in Parliament during the Winter Session.

Another scheme under the Nirbhaya Fund, Universalisation of Women Helpline, remains similarly under-executed. The scheme envisages 24-hour emergency and non-emergency response to all women affected by violence, both in public and private sphere, through one number, 181, across the country.

As per information shared by the ministry in Parliament, only five states shared the data on number of complaints received through the Women Helpline. According to which, a mere 694 complaints were received from these states since its launch 20 months ago, an abysmally small number when compared to 1,30,000 sexual crimes nationwide in 2015 alone as recorded by National Crime Record Bureau.

While the Centre maintains that it has issued funds to the states and the implementation by the latter is poor, various states are reluctant to adopt the new scheme because many already have helplines of their own.

A senior ministry official also acknowledged that the helpline conceptualised by the Centre is comparatively “rudimentary”.

According to ministry sources, the Centre also doesn’t feel the urgency to push for 181 when there are state helplines reaching out to women, which raises questions about why such a scheme was announced in the first place.

The Mahila Police Volunteer scheme of the Centre which provides for an interface between police and society in order to help women in distress has so far been implemented only by Haryana and that too in two districts.

Modi’s pet project Beti Bachao Beti Padao aims to check decline in child sex ratio across 161 worst-performing districts. While its success can be gauged only during the next Census enumeration, the ministry maintains that of the 100 districts where it was launched, 58 have shown increasing trend in sex ratio at birth between April-March 2014-15 and 2015-16.

According to government claims, 69 districts have reported progress in the first trimester registration and institutional deliveries have “improved in 80 districts” against the total reported deliveries in comparison to the previous year.

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