India, ‘So, what exactly is the need of an all-woman bank?’


Budget 2013: Nirbhaya Fund? Not what the Indian woman needs


“Seeking to dispel the dark shadows of anti-government sentiment in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya incident, the government sought to woo women by stepping up allocations to Rs 8,500 crore for women-specific schemes and announcing a slew of measures including an all-women bank and a Rs 1,000 crore fund for empowerment initiatives.

In a step towards financial inclusion, the finance minister announced the country’s first women’s bank with Rs 1,000 crore as initial capital to support women’s self-help groups and livelihoods. HSBC’s India head Naina Lal Kidwai described the measure as positive but added that the announcement was made with the intention to play to the gallery and the FM certainly got that attention.

A Rs 1,000 crore Nirbhaya fund to support women centric plans has also been mooted while the ministry for women and child development has been given an additional Rs 200 crore that is likely to support schemes like a one-stop crisis centre, a national helpline and effective implementation of the domestic violence act and discrimination at work place act.

The budget also offered a little bling incentive for women with duty free baggage limit for jewellery for women passengers raised to Rs 100,000, subject to some conditions.

Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability executive director Subrat Das said initiatives like all-women’s bank and Nirbhaya fund though useful were “piecemeal efforts”. “There is a need for reorienting the fiscal policy that continues to lack in gender responsiveness,” he said, adding that while spending on women and children had increased to Rs 27,248 crore in 2013-2014 compared to Rs 18,878.5 crore last year, it still constituted a measly 5.8% of the total union budget.

Hitting a sober note, Bharti Ali from HAQ for Child Rights said the expansion of National Nutrition Mission — meant for tackling maternal and child malnutrition through a multi-sectoral programme in 200 high burden districts — had been staggered to next year. The mission has been allocated Rs 300 crore for this fiscal.

The flagship nutrition scheme ICDS came in for a word of praise from the FM for having spent the allocated amount of Rs 15,850 crore. However, the increase of 11.7% to Rs 17,700 crore barely keeps up with inflation. According to an estimate made by nutrition experts, effective implementation of ICDS requires nearly Rs 3 lakh crore over the plan period while allocation has been for Rs 1.23 lakh crore.

aifawhOn the flip side, 27 Lakh Anganwadi workers and helpers, predominantly women, slammed the budget for its “shocking insensitivity“.

The All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers said the principal carriers of the flagship scheme were promised social security and additional remuneration but no allocation has been made for either.”

Says IDIVA.COM & Image courtesy: BCCL

Finance Minister P Chidambaram While Finance Minister P Chidambaram played the knight in the shining armour role to the hilt, going all out to ‘woo the Indian woman – with an all-woman bank.

The ‘Nirbhaya’ Fund and an empathetic lecture on the girl child – after the shock value wears out, we are only left with measures which at best might only scrape the tip of the iceberg that is women’s development and security in our country.

Nirbhaya Fund is a 10 billion (US$182 million) corpus announced by Government of India in its 2013 Union Budget.

india chidambram-women-sl-2-2-201According to Finance Minister P. Chidambaram this fund is expected support initiatives by the government and NGOs working towards protecting the dignity and ensuring safety of women in India.

Nirbhaya (fearless) was the pseudonym given to the 2012 Delhi gang rape case victim to hide her actual identity. The Ministry of Women and Child Development, along with several other concerned ministries, will work out details of the structure, scope and the application of this fund.

Firstly, the ‘all-woman bank‘, Chidambaram himself acknowledged in his speech, ‘there are women at the helm of several national and international banking operations’.

So, what exactly is the need of an all-woman bank?

It’s definitely to fund issues related to safety of women .

Like the FM pointed out, it will create employment for women and help fund enterprises floated by women. However, there is little that the budget had to encourage women to turn entrepreneurs.

Kavita Krishnan of the AIPWA pointed out: “The idea of the bank is too unclear right now. He said nothing about what exactly the bank is supposed to do, apart from making a feel-good statement that is.”

“Women in India don’t have the basic health facilities. Thousands of villages don’t have a single primary healthcare centre, there are no gynecologists, pregnancy deaths are so common, how will the bank help all these women? We immediately need a facility that helps detect the various forms of cancer women are susceptible to… women in villages don’t have any facility to detect the disease till it has spread fatally,” she said.

The FM must have hoped to make just the right noises with announcing the Nirbhaya fund. However, not everyone is flattered. Doubts that the Rs 1,000 crore fund will just rot in the ministry coffers as a lazy bureaucracy takes ages to implement existent laws and tighten security measures seemed to have marred the declaration.

“How is the Nirbhaya fund supposed to make me feel safe when I step out at night when I know it’s just a lot of money resting with people who have done little all these years,” said Delhi resident, 25-year-old Arpita Chakraborty.

Krishnan says that the Nirbhaya Fund seems more like a corpus fund meant to be utilised when needed. She might be right, given what Chidambaram said during his speech was, “I urge the Ministry for Women and Child Development to figure out strategies to utilise this fund and make the country safer for women.”

He didn’t specify and ‘strategies’ that the ministry wasn’t possibly sitting on all this while, waiting a Rs 1,000 crore fillip to arrive, right?

Twitter was abuzz with suggestions that the fund might just turn into another opportunity for a scam.

“Let them implement the Justice Verma report first. What about setting up the shelter homes and the safe houses. What about revamping the shelter homes which as as bad as jails for women already? What about trauma care centres for rape victims, acid attack victims? Is the Nirbhaya fund going to address all those needs?” asks Krishnan.

She also points out that the Rs 200 crore allocation for ‘vulnerable’ women is also not very promising. “Vulnerable women aren’t essentially widows and sexual assault victims. There are so many middle class and lower middle class women who are the sole breadwinners for the family, what does the budget have for them?”

Clearly, the FM has a few more questions to answer and this budget didn’t even address them.

Originally reported by FIRSTPOST


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