Why increase PWDVA Budget

1. Women’s Projects always suffer from low allocation

One big issue in the Gender Budgeting Statement is that very few Ministries/Departments have clear guidelines for earmarking funds for women. In the ‘Gender Budgeting Statement’ 2011-12, only 11 out of 60 schemes had allocations exceeding Rs. 100 crore, and only three of these have allocations exceeding Rs. 1000 crore – Reproductive and Child Health, Rural Family Welfare Services and Indira Awas Yojana. There is a need to significantly increase allocations for women specific schemes across different sectors. There is also a need to increase the low and unrealistic unit costs that hinders these schemes currently, in order to improve implementation.

2. NFHS-3 findings

The NFHS-3 found that violence against women is most common in Bihar, followed by Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Violence specifically against a spouse is also highest in these States, with 40% or higher prevalence in Uttar Pradesh. However Bihar and Rajasthan have no separate budget for PWDVA implementation; they claim they meet expenses for various provisions of the PWDVA through existing welfare schemes. It is clear that these States experience high levels of violence, and domestic violence is therefore not being addressed adequately. The lack of political will from States to separately address the issue of domestic violence, even where there is a very high prevalence, is an indication that the central government must take on the responsibility of encouraging and supporting States through a central scheme.

3. Budgeting

Of the States that have allocated funds specifically for the PWDVA, there are wide variations in amounts. There are also variations in the utilisation of the allocated funds, from near 100% in Andhra Pradesh to 34.2% in Madhya Pradesh in 2009-10. There is no minimum benchmark set by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development for providing allocations for the various provisions under the Act, so States are able to pick and choose what they decide to focus on. Unfortunately this has meant that some areas have been neglected. Support for service providers, who run necessities such as shelter homes (notified under the Act), is one of these areas. Only three of 28 States have provided support to service providers; however these are key implementing agencies providing counselling, medical support and shelter. A CSS could therefore be beneficial in identifying key areas central to the Act and ensuring funding for them.

Many States provided funding for creating general awareness or holding gender workshops when the Act came into force but then neglected to spend it, and then stopped allocating the funds. Funding is therefore an issue between States, with a lack of benchmark amount and also a lack of monitoring on whether allocated funds are spent adequately. A centrally sponsored scheme would allow for better monitoring and allocation of funds, ensuring that the money was spent where it was most needed.

4. Monitoring

Employing centralised schemes has been shown to improve monitoring within States, as all institutions receiving grants from the Central Government are required to be examined and audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. Centralised schemes therefore mean that more time is taken to regularly assess the status of areas which may otherwise have been overlooked. Improved monitoring and assessment means that States which do not currently have specific allocations for combating domestic violence but which do show high levels of violence would be required to carry out full assessments on violence, take note of its high prevalence and budget accordingly. Information on budget allocations for PWDVA is currently not easy to come by. For example, although Delhi has a Plan Scheme for its implementation, an allocation breakdown is not available. In Haryana, the breakdown is divided into ‘other expenditure’ and ‘other charges’ which does not give an accurate picture of the situation. A central scheme would therefore encourage monitoring and evaluation of budgets allocated for the PWDVA, and ensure funds are being assigned most effectively.

5. Awareness

There is very little point to an Act if there is no awareness amongst communities about their rights under it. One benefit of a centrally sponsored scheme is that it covers the whole of India and assures that everyone is under a similar umbrella. Dissemination of information can then be done centrally, or encouraged of States. States can also benefit from more awareness that comes with a CSS; the central government can organise workshops across States (as was seen in the National Rural Health Mission), encouraging States to learn from each other on best practices. Centralised schemes can therefore bring greater State participation, more localized and community efforts, and more awareness.

6. Universality

Central Schemes are beneficial in implementing Acts as they ensure uniform interpretation of the Act. This is particularly important as different States have shown very different interpretations of the PWDVA and have allocated resources in very different ways, not necessarily reflecting the differences in domestic violence prevalence within that State. However, a central scheme could aim to remove inter-State and inter-district disparities, as was seen in the NRHM.

Centrally sponsored schemes often mean having an umbrella organisation at the State level to coordinate and help the various factors involved. This means if any actors are ill-equipped or lack the infrastructure or man-power to carry out the scheme they are helped at State level. When a CSS is employed, the central government also has the capacity to unite actors and promote partnership. Coordination and partnership in a PWDVA schemes would be greatly beneficial, as there are currently difficulties that have arisen due to a lack of coordination between actors such as POs and the police. In Bihar and Gujarat, even when a breach of order is reported to the police, the police do not take action, due to uncertainty and lack of communication between these two actors. A scheme with the power to unite actors would therefore increase the effectiveness of the Act.

Universality is also important in implementing the PWDVA as it has been shown that there is little uniform practice in its implementation, even amongst magistrates. Proviso to Section 12 (1) of the Act states that before passing any orders, the magistrate should consider any DIR received from the PO or SP. However, only in Maharashtra was this seen as compulsory. In Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Meghalaya and West Bengal the DIR was sometimes accepted alongside and application; in Chandigarh, Haryana, Kerala, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh a DIR was not insisted upon. This shows the need for a central scheme that can ensure certain parts of the Act are being followed universally across India.

Universality does not have to mean that every State tackles the problem in the same way – different States must be given space to localise their efforts. However, a centrally sponsored scheme can still be of use; in the NRHM States were also allowed to develop a detailed programme implementation plan based on their own district health Action plans, although the government of India indicated where the resources should be allocated. This encouraged innovation and allowed for flexibility within the government scheme guidelines.