Women’s Shelters Got Rs 200 Cr in 3 Yrs – Where’s the Money Gone?

Where did this enormous amount of funding go? In many shelters, definitely not to the women they’re supposed to help

Updated
India
7 min read

Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam

The Modi-led government started the Swadhar Greh scheme for homeless women in 2015. The Ministry of Women and Child Development released funds to the tune of nearly Rs 200 crore to 559 shelter homes. What is all that money meant to do?

Well, the funds are supposed to be used to house homeless women in need of shelter, and to provide skills training so that they can look for work and become financially independent. They are supposed to shelter women between the ages of 18-60 years, with other shelters taking care of minor girls and elderly women.

But the National Commission For Women (NCW) submitted a report to the ministry in December revealing the ‘poor and deplorable’ conditions of 25 out of 26 homes in Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Karnataka and West Bengal.

According to the Chairperson of NCW, Rekha Sharma, the licences of the NGOs running these homes should be cancelled immediately.

“They (Ministry for Women and Children) have a mechanism to check on shelter homes immediately. If we (Central government) are providing money to the shelter homes, then it should go into the right hands, it shouldn’t be misused. Before giving out the next budgets, a proper check should be carried out on each and every NGO that is running a shelter house. Or else their licences should be cancelled, or we should invite new NGOs.”
Rekha Sharma, Chairperson, National Commission for Women

The government is yet to take any action based on the report. So what did the report actually find?

Major Findings

Some of the major findings of the NCW mentioned inadequate facilities and unclean, even dangerous conditions in the shelter homes: “Unkempt mentally ill-women with no medical aid,” “dirty and unhygienic kitchens,” “cramped rooms, no beds or mattresses to sleep on”.

Some women complained of being forced to live in the shelter home rather than just stay to gain skills, while others detailed accounts of physical torture and a lack of counselling facilities. 

Some NGOs were even running these government shelters as hostels, illegally charging destitute women for their stay. Other shelters were using the government infrastructure to house school-going girls and working women and charging them fees, instead of giving shelter to the truly destitute.

The NCW has made strong recommendations to the Ministry of Women and Child Development to try and address these problems. They include measures like only employing women to run the homes, ensuring these homes aren’t located in isolated, remote areas, and insisting that proper records of all these homes are maintained across the country.

Here are some of the findings made in Swadhar Grehs in four states – West Bengal, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, and Karnataka. The conditions in the worst of the shelter homes in all states have been given here:

West Bengal – Rs 6.19 Cr Released

Over Rs 6.19 crore was released to five government shelter homes in West Bengal by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. In this state, the Committee found:

Snapshot

Complaints of physical torture

Conditions resembling a “congested prison”

NGOs running shelters like hostels

Jayaprakash Institute of Social Change

Women’s Shelters Got Rs 200 Cr in 3 Yrs – Where’s the Money Gone?
(Photo Courtesy: National Commission For Women)
  • When the women were questioned, they informed the NCW Committee that the NGO workers go out and solicit donations of food and clothes for the women staying there. These shelter homes are receiving crores in funding from the Central government, and are not supposed to fund care of the women through begging for donations.
  • Many women also complained that they are subjected to physical torture by the counselor of the Swadhar Greh.
  • The Committee found that seven of the women were intellectually disabled, and observed that this Swadhar Greh was run like a ‘congested prison’.
  • The women were not receiving proper medical care.

Mahila Seva Samity

  • The NGO running this shelter has been illegally running the shelter home as a hostel for school-going girls.
  • At the time of the inspection, around 9 am, all 16 of the girls in the shelter were dressed in their uniforms with their bags, about to leave for school.
  • The Swadhar Greh was being used for schoolgirls to stay in as they lived far away from their schools, and they would return to their homes over school holidays.
  • The shelter was collecting money from the girls for their stay, whilst simultaneously receiving government funds without providing any care to homeless women.

Odisha – Rs 15 Cr Given

A mentally challenged woman on the floor in a shelter home in Odisha.
A mentally challenged woman on the floor in a shelter home in Odisha.
(Photo: National Commission For Women)

The Ministry of Woman and Child Development has released over Rs 15 crore to eight shelter homes in Odisha. Here, the Committee found that:

Snapshot

Women were being forced to stay in the shelters

The shelters were housing intellectually disabled women without facilities to care for them

Viswa Jeevan Seva Sangha

  • Out of a maximum of 30 women allowed in the home, at the time of NCW’s inspection, three of them were intellectually disabled.
  • One woman with a child, a trafficking case, complained to the committee that she was a HIV patient and comes from State of Andhra Pradesh. She said the NGO was not providing her with the medication she needed. Despite saying she wanted to go back to her parents, she complained that the NGO was forcing her to stay in the shelter home.
  • Most of the inmates complained that they wanted to return to their families, but that the NGO was making no efforts to assist them in doing so.
  • The inmates complained that the NGO was not taking good care of them, refusing to render medical or legal aid to them or their children.
A cramped and dirty room in a shelter home in Odisha.
A cramped and dirty room in a shelter home in Odisha.
(Photo: National Commission For Women)

Bhairabi Club, Sashakti Swadhar Shelter Home

  • Out of 16 women, three were found to be intellectually disabled. Women with intellectual disabilities are supposed to be sent to appropriate hospitals. At this shelter home, they were not receiving proper care.

Basundhara, Gatiroutpatna

  • Out of 65 women at the shelter home, 22 were found to have intellectual disabilities.
  • A few of the women were elderly, above the age of 60. These women are supposed to have been shifted to old-age homes where proper care can be provided to them.

Association for Voluntary Action

  • Besides a Swadhar Greh, a child care home, a psychiatric home, a shishu mandir, an old-age home, and a school for deaf and dumb were also being run out of the same premises by the NGO, which raises the question of how funds for these various care homes are being utilised.
  • Two of the women were found to be intellectually disabled.

Uttar Pradesh – Rs 25 Cr Released In 3 Yrs

Over Rs 25 crore was released by the ministry to the NGOs to run 5 government shelter homes for women in UP. In Uttar Pradesh, the Committee found:

Snapshot

Women forced to live in the shelters against their will

Men living in the same compound as these vulnerable women, raising serious safety issues

No mattresses for women in shelter home in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. 
No mattresses for women in shelter home in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. 
(Photo: National Commission For Women)

Bhartiya Adimjati Sangh in Allahabad

Women’s Shelters Got Rs 200 Cr in 3 Yrs – Where’s the Money Gone?
(Photo: National Commission For Women)
  • When the Committee visited the Swadhar Greh around 9:30 pm, they observed some men living in a different building within the same campus as the shelter women – this constitutes a serious safety issue for the vulnerable women staying in the shelter homes.

Janak Samiti

  • The NCW Committee found that in this shelter home, the superintendent herself was manipulating the women to continue to stay in the Greh, and stopping them from returning to their families even when they wanted to go.

Karnataka – Rs 11 Cr Released

The WCD Ministry released Rs 11 crore to eight government-run women shelter homes in Karnataka. Here, the Committee found:

Lack of counselling for traumatised or disturbed women

Illegal fees being charged of working women and students, while no shelter provided for actual homeless women

Ashakiran Education & Rehabilitation Society

  • The NCW Committee found a woman here who was a rape survivor and seemed to be under severe mental trauma, but there was no assistance or special care being provided to her.
  • There was no psychological counselling made available to women suffering from depression.
  • There were no specially trained staff to care for women with psychological problems or intellectual disabilities.

Association of Social Health in India

  • The NCW Committee found that this was another shelter home being run like a hostel.
  • The majority of the women here were minors, under 18 years of age.
  • The NCW Committee found that the majority of them were young girls working or studying, like B. Pharmacy, Engineering (Computer Science) Third Year, M.Sc in Maths, teaching Maths, Second Year B.Com. These young women were being charged for their stay, despite the NGO receiving public funds to run it as a shelter.

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