‘Nirbhaya Fund Vehicles Used for Shinde Ministers’ Security’: Opposition Slams ‘Misuse of Power’

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The Shiv Sena under Uddhav Thackeray has said the Shinde dispensation would have to face protests if the vehicles are not deployed for the purpose for which they were acquired.

New Delhi: Opposition politicians have registered their outrage after news broke that vehicles procured under the ‘Nirbhaya’ fund – instituted to fight crimes against women – were being used for the security of legislators belonging to the political camp of Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde.

Indian Express had originally reported the news, which has as yet not drawn responses from Shinde, his deputy and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis or any one in the state government.

Express reported that “220 Boleros, 35 Ertigas, 313 Pulsar bikes and 200 Activas” were procured by the Mumbai Police under the Nirbhaya fund in June, 2022.

Soon afterwards, 30 of these vehicles were allotted to leaders belonging to Shinde’s faction of the Shiv Sena. These leaders had entered the ‘Y plus with escort’ category of security after they formed the government by breaking away from Uddhav Thackeray’s side of the Shiv Sena.

The Nirbhaya Fund, set up in 2013, is given to state governments by the Union government to implement schemes related to women’s safety.

“After the vehicles were procured in June, they were distributed to all 97 police stations, cyber, traffic and coastal police units in July,” a police official told PTI.

“Of these vehicles, 47 Boleros were requisitioned from several police stations by the Motor Transport Department of the Mumbai Police following an order from the VIP Security section of the state police stating that they are required for use as an escort vehicle for MPs and MLAs of the Shinde faction to provide Y-Plus security cover to them,” he said.

Out of these, 17 of the vehicles which were used for the security of these lawmakers were returned to police stations after the requirement was fulfilled, he added.

“But 30 Boleros are yet to be returned, which has impacted the police patrolling in the jurisdiction of respective police stations,” the official said to PTI.

The development prompted the opposition Shiv Sena (under Thackeray), Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to attack the Shinde-led government.

Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said, “Is the security of ruling MLAs more important than protecting women from abuse? It is appalling and outrageous to see the Nirbhaya Fund, which is meant for the Nirbhayas of Maharashtra being used for the security of MLAs.”

NCP spokesperson Clyde Crasto said, “SUVs bought with Nirbhaya Fund diverted to provide Y-plus security to Shinde legislators. Shameful misuse of power by the Shinde-Fadnavis government. Eknath Shinde’s legislators must hang their heads in shame.”

President of NCP’s Maharashtra unit Jayant Patil said the Nirbhaya Fund was set up by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for the protection of women.

“It is shocking that vehicles procured for helping the police to carry out their duties of protecting women are being misused for the protection of the breakaway MLAs.

“On one hand the chief minister claims to have the support of the people and on the other hand, each of the breakaway MLA and MP is being provided Y-plus category security which comprises five police personnel,” he said.

“If people are with you, what do you fear?” he asked.

Patil demanded the vehicles be sent back to the respective police stations and said the security of women was more important than the security of the breakaway legislators.

The Shiv Sena (UBT) said the Shinde dispensation would have to face protests if the vehicles are not deployed for the purpose for which they were acquired.

Aaditya Thackeray tweeted that the fund’s vehicles were being used for the “security of Khoke Sarkar’s gaddars”.

“In a state where a woman MP can be abused by a minister many times and no action is taken, what can we expect?” he wrote, as caption to an image of a news report of sexual harassment case that led to the death of a child as her mother attempted to escape molestation.

Addressing a press conference, Shiv Sena (UBT) spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said if the needful is not done in seven days, then her party would protest.

“This is nothing but embezzlement of government funds. The funds being provided by the Centre for a purpose are being used for private security,” she said.

Shiv Sena (UBT) legislator Manisha Kayande wanted to know who had ordered the diversion of these vehicles for such private use.

Meanwhile, Hindustan Times has reported that the VIP security department of the state on Friday, December 9, requisitioned 20 more Bolero SUVs from police stations in central and south Mumbai to escort the G-20 summit delegation.

Courtesy The Wire

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