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Monday, April 12, 2021

India has many welfare plans for women, why still they’re unsafe? Find answer in 7 points

The recent gruesome assault and alleged gang rape of a 20-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh and the victim’s subsequent death have led to widespread outrage across the country. The hurried cremation on the intervening night of September 29 and 30 further fuelled the anger against the Uttar Pradesh Police and the state government, amid claims that no rape took place and counter allegations that the opposition was playing politics over the matter. Now, we all know know, there are multiple government welfare plans for women and girl children safety. The very glaring example of one such plan is Beti Bachao Beti Padhao. But reality says none of those plan helps prevent these crimes against girls or women. Why? In this article, we shall try to find and understand that.

Why do Centre’s welfare plans fail to ensure women’s safety? Explained in 7 points

1. Welfare plans are mostly propaganda tools for polls

‘Beti Bachao’ is a slogan that is used as a political propaganda during elections. Four years after the Beti Bachao scheme was announced, the government said that more than 55 percent of the scheme’s fund was spent just on ads and publicity! The Centre started this scheme with the motive of maintaining the ‘gender ratio’. Their ‘Beti Bachao’ campaign was never meant to be about ‘women empowerment’. Like everything else, the government just gave a quirky slogan to get more votes. The government was never strategic about its plan. It did not reform any law for women’s safety and I have never heard our Prime Minister clarify what he really meant by ‘Beti Bachao’.

Approximately, 56 percent of the amount has been spent on “media activities” i.e., advertising and publicity. This is just a little over Rs. 364.6 crore. Almost 19 percent of the fund simply was not released. That’s approximately Rs 124 crore. Not exactly a small amount. This leaves just 25 percent of the fund. And it was only this 25 percent that was sent to the states and districts under the scheme. These include many parts of Haryana, UP, Punjab, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. A total of 161 districts are supposed to be covered by the scheme at this point. The 25 percent that they received is approximately Rs 160 crore.

2. Most plans depict women as weak and helpless

The slogan ‘Beti Bachao’ is a failure in itself. In this male dominated world, a female is raped every other day. So why make the woman appear weak and helpless by starting projects like ‘Beti Bachao’, why not start a project to teach these men how to behave? Majority of these welfare plans are prepared in a way that they make women look very tmid, helpless and a crisis of this patriarchal system. There is no such initiative in introducing a punishment that the sheer thought of rape or vulgarity will scare criminals. Also, no plans are conducted to ensure that we teach our boys to respect women. Our education system does not introduce any gender-neutral or unbiased learning that can erase the gender division from society and ultimately create a better environment in which people of varied genders can stay peacefully.

 

3. Women empowerment doesn’t considered as national priority

‘Support the Girl Child’, ‘girls are our future’ — the list of campaigns to empower women is a farce. Be it Congress or the BJP at the Centre, we need to actually act on them. But in reality that never happens. The horrifying Nirbhaya rape incident had taken place during the Congress-led UPA II regime. Hathras happened when BJP is at the Centre. It is time we acted on issues, not just be vocal about them as political rhetoric. Despite massive campaigns to bring gender equality, we are often reminded by the society that nothing has really changed, and that ‘boys will be boys’. The ‘Beti Bachao’ slogan has the power to uplift millions of Indian women and girls from the shackles of patriarchy, dominance, illiteracy, financial dependence, sexual abuse and daily struggles. If we control female foeticide and women illiteracy, we can propel India’s growth rate in the international stage. Women empowerment is not specifically a gender issue, but should be a national priority.

4. Campaign needs to be incentivised by Centre

‘Beti Bachao’ or ‘selfie with daughter’ are good campaigns derived from the ‘nudge behaviour change’ theory. Such campaigns usually have lasting positive change, but at a slow speed. Nudge campaigns usually have some incentives and a compelling reason to change, like the successful Swachh Bharat toilet campaign. To make ‘Beti Bachao’ campaign successful, the government must give incentives that are tangible in nature so that people actively participate in it. There should be a short course with online assessment — if a participant passes, he (or she) will be eligible for 0.50 per cent rebate in bank loans or any discount coupons.

5. Centre reduces funds for women welfare schemes as per its wish

During 2006-07, there was a scheme called “Kishori Shakti Yojana” which sought to empower adolescent girls, so as to enable them to take charge of their lives. In fact, the scheme was an extension of the already existing Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme. The target group was 11 to 18 years and was initially introduced in 6118 blocks across the country. The ultimate objective was to make a girl healthy physically and mentally, link them to opportunities for learning skills, motivate them to go back to school, help them understand their social environment and take initiatives to become productive.

The KYS scheme was yielding results earlier, as per an RTI reply by the Modi government. In the year 2010-11, the central government spent Rs. 3,365 crore and covered 24.81 lakh girls by providing training for skill development. However, in 2014-15, in the first budget of Modi Government, the funds were drastically reduced to Rs. 1,489 crore, whereas the expenditure made on KSY by various state governments turned out to be Rs. 1,602 crore. Only around 15.18 lakh girls got the benefit. Before phasing out KSY, in the year 2017-18, government of India provided only Rs. 4,64 crore to provide skill development training to 6.28 lakh girls. But from April 1, 2018, the scheme has been discontinued.

India women
Photo: Twitter

6. There are plans, but they don’t serve any purpose

In November 2017, Modi Government came up with a new scheme for women empowerment, named Mahila Shakti Kendra. The scheme aimed to cover 640 districts of the country through District Level Centre for Women (DLCW) till 2020. These centres will serve as a link between village, block and state level in facilitating women centric schemes and also strengthen the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme at the district level. During the first Phase (2017-18), 220 districts were supposed to be covered and similarly, 220 more DLCW were proposed to be established in 2018-19. The remaining 200 districts were to be covered in 2019-20. According to the RTI reply, only 22 districts have so far made DLCW functional which includes 5 most Backward Districts of India. The RTI reply also confirmed that not a single state has reported about the functional status of the Mahila Shakti Kendras.

7. Faulty economy another reason for failure of schemes

The Modi government took two and half years to redraw the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) which provided Rs. 6,000 to poor pregnant woman in two instalments since the 1980s. From January 1, 2017, a new scheme was launched under the name Pradhan Mantri Matritva Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) and the amount for the beneficiary was reduced to Rs. 5,000 while increasing the number of instalments to 3.

According to a report published by Hindustan Times on January 15, 2018, only 2% beneficiaries got aid under this maternity scheme even after one year of being implemented. The RTI reply revealed that till November 30, 2018, the government had distributed Rs. 1,656 crore among nearly 20 lakh eligible mothers, but ironically it has spent Rs.6,966 crore to distribute this amount. So, for doling out of every Rs.100, the government spent nearly 4.3 times as administrative expenses which is mind-blowing. Odisha made a dubious record of identifying only five beneficiaries, thus distributing only Rs. 25,000 till November 2018.

Similarly, the scheme for setting up Family Counselling Centres was introduced by the Central Social Welfare Board in 1983 to provide counselling, referral and rehabilitative services to women and children who are victims of atrocities, family maladjustments and social ostracism, and also provide crisis intervention and trauma support in case of natural disasters. The Centres also create awareness and mobilise public opinion on social issues affecting status of women. The FCCs work in close collaboration with the local administration, police, courts, free legal aid cells, medical and psychiatric institutions, vocational training centres, short stay homes, etc. However, under the Modi government the scheme has suffered as well. The RTI response revealed shocking details. During the last five years, 219 FCCs have closed. During 2014-15, when 895 centres were operational, the total expenditure was Rs. 1,645 crore, and then onwards, while centres were continuously reduced, expenditures shot up.

We wonder how many of these above issues will be resolved to ensure complete safety and empowerment to the girls and women of our country? We hope the Centre takes measures and improve the situation from the Hathras episode.

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