Modi’s pro-women talk remains only in his Mann ki Baat

The Centre has reduced around ₹64.1 crore towards the education of the girl child and despite rapes increasing in the country, the Nibhaya Fund remains underutilised and stagnant at ₹500 crore

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media
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Ashlin Mathew

The BJP manifesto in 2014 had a vision for women and children, which included implementation of schemes for the welfare of the girl child in all urban and rural areas, dedicated training centres for women to aid in job search and of course, education of the girl. But, this budget, which was essentially an election budget, fails on all these fronts.

Despite the pink cover on the Economic Survey, this budget has been completely insensitive towards the needs of women. The total gender budget has declined to 0.65% of the projected GDP for 2018-19 from 0.69%. There has been a reduction to 4.9% from 5.2% in terms of proportion of the gender budget to the total budgetary expenditure between 2017-2018 (revised estimate) and the proposed budget for 2018-2019. The finance minister may claim that there has been anincrease in the allocation for the Ministry of Women and Child Development, but it is not more than 0.5%. The allocations for the MWCD, has been increased from the 0.95 per cent of the total expenditure in the revised estimates of 2017-18 to 1% of the projected expenditure for 2018-19.

It is important to note that the allocations for educational schemes for the girl child has decreased by ₹64.1 crore and laughably there has been an ‘increase’ of ₹80 crore in the BJP government’s flagship Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao scheme. In this budget by this government, which claims to be pro-women, there is absolutely no mention of measures to address the rising violence against women. The Nirbhaya Fund, which has been lying underutilised, remains at ₹500 crore.

Compared to 2017-18 revised estimate, there has been an absolute reduction in allocation towards schemes meant to aid women. There has been a 7.5% reduction towards Maternity Benefit Programme (MBP) and the Pradhan Mantri Matritva Vandana Yojana, which was universalised last year to all pregnant and lactating women. Towards the National Health Mission, there has been a reduction by 3.7%, National Rural Drinking Water Programme by 0.7% and the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan by 7.3%. There has been a consistent decline in fund utilised under Anganwadi services (or ICDS) schemes, from ₹16,683 crore in 2014-15 to ₹14,735.6 crore in 2016-17.

“When you look at the budget allocation, what we should look at is the rate of growth of the economy and the inflation rate. In our country, both this together has been at 11 per cent. If the allocation in the budget has not increased by at least 11 per cent, then it is a reduction in allocation from the previous year. The allocations have to keep in pace with the economy. The gross budgetary outlay in relation to the GDP has in fact dropped to 13% from 13.2%,” explains Smita Gupta, an independent economist.

The BJP manifesto in 2014 had a vision for women and children, which included implementation of schemes for the welfare of the girl child in all urban and rural areas, dedicated training centres for women to aid in job search and of course, education of the girl. But, this budget, which was essentially an election budget, fails on all these fronts.

The finance minister has claimed that he has lessened the burden of salaried women, but this is of no particular consequence to women workers, most of whom are in the informal sector.

The only substantial increase is in the following schemes – the National Creche scheme (97.5 %; the allocations were reduced substantially in 2017-18 RE as compared to BE), Blue Revolution (113%), National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (50%; again the allocations were reduced in RE), and towards the National Literacy Mission (29%).

“One would expect in an election year, the government would focus on the social sector, health, and employability of women, but this budget, much like their manifesto is nothing but optics. The PM has been attempting to woo women and even praised them in this year’s first Mann Ki Baat, but as usual, it is nothing but hot air. Where is the money for the schemes? A majority of the MNREGA workers are women, but the budget does not take that into consideration,” says Gupta.

“From the point of view of women, the concerns are lack of work, lack of food, lack of health care and safety and this budget does nothing to address these points. It is such a conservative budget,” asserts Gupta.

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