Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 12, March 14, 2015
Union Budget 2015-16:: Gender Budget: Unfulfilled Promises for Gender Equality?
Saturday 14 March 2015
by Shahla Tabassum
The recent Budget for the year 2015-16 is very special. The Budget is presented every year by the Finance Minister in Parliament, and thus some people may ask: what is special about the 2015-16 Budget. The speciality is about the feelings and aspirations of the citizens of this country who were not happy with the previous UPA-II Government at the Centre. The reasons are known to everyone, which is why for the first time after a long period of domination of coalition governments at the Centre, a single party (BJP) got majority on its own in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Also, this Budget is technically the first full-fledged Budget of the NDA II Government at the Centre. The last one, presented in the month of July 2014, was technically not one in a financial year. The present article is going to analyse the Budget outlays for women in the country for the year 2015-16.
As far as the Budget relates to a particular section of the population in our society that constitutes almost half of our population and is most vulnerable, that is, ‘women’, it is the responsibility of the government to look into the problems and needs of this group (gender inequality), without which our society cannot be called equal in nature. The issue of gender equality is one of the important development issues along with other issues. Gender equality not only in the field of politics, but employment, education, health etc. Here it is important, to mention about the social sector expenditure of the Union Government. No doubt the social sector spending on health, education, housing, water supply etc. increased in the last ten years as a proportion of the total expenditure of the Central Government. But the big expenditure had come during the period between 2004 and 2008 (under UPA I) rule. And since then the social sector spending of the total Central Government expenditure was on an average 12 per cent (See table no. 1.1).
During the campaign for the 16th Lok Sabha elections, the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in order to attract women voters, particularly chose the topic of ‘Mahila’ for discussion in his popular television series ‘Chai Pe Charcha’. But many of the commitments made by the BJP party in its manifesto for the 16th Lok Sabha elections for women have not been fulfilled in the present Budget. For example: a) enabling women with training and skills —setting up dedicated Women ITIs, women wings in other ITIs; b) creating an Acid Attack Victims Welfare Fund to take care of the medical costs related to treatment and cosmetic reconstructive surgeries of such victims; c) setting up an All Women Mobile Bank to cater to women; d) reviewing the working conditions and enhancing the remuneration of Anganwadi workers; e) special skills training and business incubator park for women; f) setting up special business facilitation centres for women; g) ensuring that the loans to Women Self Help Groups would be available at low interest rates; h) programme for women healthcare in a mission mode, especially focusing on domains of Nutrition and Pregnancy—with emphasis on the rural, SCs, STs and OBCs; i) setting up a dedicated W-SME (Women Small and the medium Enterprises) cluster in every district; j) the fund for relief and rehabilitation of rape victims lies unused at the Centre as the government (UPA II) had not worked out the modalities of dispensation—the BJP promised to clear this as a priority.
Report on “Of Bold Strokes and Fine Prints- Analysis of Union Budget 2015-16”, Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA), March 2015, New Delhi, p. 24
The Ministry of Women and Child Develop-ment, which is the nodal agency for women’s welfare, development and empowerment in the country, saw the biggest increase in the Budget from Rs 10,688 crores in 2010-11 to Rs 15,671 crores in 2011-12. But for the next three years, there was just a marginal increase in the Budget, Rs 17,036 crores in 2012-13; Rs 18,037 crores in 2013-14; Rs 18,588 crores in 2014-15 (Revised Estimate). However, the present Budget 2015-16 makes a mockery of the Budget for the Ministry of Women and Child Development, with the slashed allocation of Rs 10,382 crores (Budget Estimate). This amount is lower than the amount which was allocated in the Budget year 2010-11. One important point needs to be kept in mind: while seeing the budget for the Ministry of Women and Child Development it needs to be noted that the money for the Integrated Child Development Service Scheme (ICDS) comes from this Ministry only. Thus, the majority of the funds goes to the ICDS when compared to women’s welfare or development in the Budget.
Table No. 1.3: Percentage of Gender Budget to total Budget of the Central Government
Source from- Rukmini, S., “Budget 2015-16 in eight charts”, the Hindu, March 1, Sunday, 2015. Available on :http://www.thehindu.com/business/budget/budget-201516-in-seven-charts/article6948182.ece, accessed on March 3, 2015.
As can be seen from table no. 1.2, the important schemes being implemented by the
Ministry have been either withdrawn or not allocated any money and also funds for some schemes of the Ministry have been reduced or slashed. The schemes which have been withdrawn are: Restorative Justice to Rape Victims; Rashtriya Mahila Kosh; and Assistance to States for Implementation of Protection of Women as in the Domestic Violence Act, 2005. The schemes which have seen reduction in their funds are: One Stop Crisis Centres; Women’s Helpline; and Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (SABLA). Even the BJP-led NDA government unutilised the money in the Nirbhaya fund, after coming to power last year although in the present Budget, they have allocated Rs 1000 crores for this fund, which today stands at a total of Rs 3000 crores. Only time will tell how they are going to use the Nirbhaya fund.
The argument the Union Government is giving is that because of the implementation of the recommendations of the 14th Finance Ccommission now the States will get more money from the Centre, and the latter will reduce the allocations to the State Plans, and also the new sharing pattern in the Centrally sponsored schemes will be implemented with more participation from the States in the programmes/schemes etc. Now onwards, States will have to take more initiatives for women’s welfare and only time will tell how much this will be effective and progressive.
In the last 10 years (2005-2015), if we see the gender budget percentage to the total Budget of the Central Government, it started with the lowest (2.79 per cent) in the year 2005 and increased to the highest level with (6.22 per cent) in the year 2011. But from the year 2012, the percentage of the gender budget saw reduction in the total Budget of the Central Government and in the present Budget (2015-16) it is estimated at 4.46 per cent, one percentage reduction compared to last year (5.46 per cent) in 2014-15. The Budget year 2005-06 was very significant for women in the country, as for the first time the ‘Gender Responsive Budgeting’ (GRB) was adopted. The GRB is a method of planning, programming and budgeting that helps advance gender equality and women’s rights. It serves as an indicator of the government’s commitment towards the above mentioned objectives. So far, 57 government Ministries/departments in India have set up Gender Budgeting Cells, which is a positive step and will bring improvement in the lives of the women in society.
These days we hear in the media (print and video/audio) about gender equality not only by academicians, women activists, women them-selves, but, interestingly, by the most powerful man in the country, that is, none other than the Prime Minister himself. The BJP, which came to power in the 16th Lok Sabha elections, has a goal for the country, ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat— Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’. Without achieving gender equality, the above goal cannot be achieved. Inadequate resources with intention at the highest level (verbally) will not help the cause of gender equality. What is needed is action at the ground level. Unfortunately, in the present Budget this has not been outlined.
a) Rukmini, S., “Social spend needs Budget boost”, The Hindu, February 24, Tuesday, 2015. Available on http://www.thehindu.com/business/budget/social-spend-needs-budget-boost/article6926456.ece, accessed on March 3, 2015.
b) Rukmini, S., “Budget 2015-16 in eight charts”, The Hindu, March 1, Sunday, 2015. Available on: http://www.thehindu.com/business/budget/budget-201516-in-seven-charts/article6948182.ece, accessed on March 3, 2015.
c) Yamini Mishra and Rebecca Reichmann Tavares., “A budget for women”, The Hindu, February 25, 2015, Wednesday. Source from http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/a-budget-for-women/article6929819.ece?ref=relatedNews, accessed on March 3, 2015.
d) BJP Election Manifesto—2014, New Delhi.
e) Report on “Of Bold Strokes and Fine Prints—Analysis of Union Budget 2015-16”, Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA), March 2015, New Delhi.
Dr Shahla Tabassum is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She can be contacted at e-mail:email@example.com