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Mumbai: After the celebrations for International Women’s Day, here’s some grim news. Despite the rising number of rapes in the country there has been a mind-boggling reduction in the budget for the relief and rehabilitation of rape victims over the years. The budget allocation for the welfare of rape victims has been slashed by nearly 85% from the previous financial year. This, though basic medical care for a rape victim is believed to cost around Rs 1,000 daily in a city like Mumbai
A comparison of budget estimates over the years shows that allocation for relief and rehabilitation of rape victims has fallen from Rs 53.30 crore in the 2009-10 Union budget to Rs 36.2 crore in 2010-11 to a mere Rs 7.5 crore in the 2011-12 budget.
Researchers on women’s issues say the slash is unwarranted given that the number of rapes in the country has been steadily on the rise (see box). Over 21,397 women in the country were raped in 2009 alone, the latest year for which the National Crime Records Bureau provides statistics. The figure is believed to be conservative at best, given the under-reporting of such crimes.
Sangeeta Rege, senior researcher at CEHAT (Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes) says the paltry expenditure on the welfare of rape victims is a matter of serious concern. “An analysis of the government’s expenditure on the relief and rehabilitation of rape victims in 2009 shows that only Rs 9 lakh of the budget was spent, which amounts to around Rs 42 per rape victim. This will not even provide for a victim’s daily dose of medication. The budget reduction since then makes one wonder how less will the government spend?’’
Rege says CEHAT research showed that basic medical care for a rape victim costs around Rs 1,000 daily in a city like Mumbai.
There seems to be a lack of clarity on compensatory relief for rape. Senior officials from the ministry of women and child development told TOI that rape victims could file for compensation under section 357A of the CrPC. They said schemes for rehabilitation of rape victims were awaiting final approvals. Asked about poor spending of budget allocations, officials said funds were channelised on a need basis.
Women researchers said that rape victims were often completely unaware about provisions for financial redressal. Explaining that the reduced fund-allocation is usually due to gross underutilization of allocated funds in the previous year, head of economics at the SNDT Women’s university Vibhuti Patel says the budget slash indicated rape victims or potential recipients such as the police, women’s groups or remand homes were unaware about the availability of funding. `It could also be due to the non-formation of schemes to channelize funds,’’ she said.
Following Supreme Court directives, the National Commission for Women had drawn up a scheme to provide restorative justice to rape victims by means of a compensatory fund, way back in 2005. After much deliberation, it was recently proposed that rape victims would receive financial assistance of Rs 20,000 and restorative support services upto Rs 50,000, but that scheme too still awaits implementation.
The reduced allocations are just another indication of victims getting short shrift. Lakshmi Lingam, professor of women’s studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences says the government seems to lack direction on how to handle the issue of sexual violence against women.