People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 04, 2007
Extremely Inadequate Allocations: AIDWA
THE AIDWA notes with disappointment that the union budget for the current year has failed to make use of the much flaunted 9.2 per cent growth rate to address equity concerns. This is in spite of the fact that the finance minister accepted in the budget speech that ‘our human and gender development indices are low’. No attempt has been made in the budget to allocate sufficient resources for the development of the poor and the marginalised sections particularly women. The finance minister has failed to generate additional resources and shift the expenditure thrust in favour of marginalised sections, especially women. Issues of livelihood security and food security have been dealt in a manner, which indicates mere tokenism of the government.
The claims with regard to gender budgeting reveal a highly superficial and inadequate understanding of the severe problems being faced by the poor women in rural and urban areas. The allocation of Rs 8975 crore for the 100 per cent women specific programmes (out of which nearly half the amount has been allocated for family welfare schemes, often dealing with population control) is extremely inadequate. In other women specific schemes also very small allocations have been made.
The absence of significant allocation for strengthening the PDS, which is the most essential component of food security, is another serious weakness of the budget. The increase in proposed outlay on food subsidy is only 6.2 per cent in spite of the inflationary pressure on prices. No attempt is made to resort to universal PDS. The targeted PDS has a very limited reach as pointed out in several studies. Women, who are the last to eat, suffer the most in the wake of food shortages. With the current level of inflation and price rise of food products, they suffer the most.
The budget has not allocated sufficient resources to deal with the unprecedented agrarian crisis which is reflected in rising unemployment and lack of any alternative livelihood options. Rural women who are largely unskilled and illiterate are not able to find work in the absence of farm work. The NREGA has been extended to 330 districts – an increase of 130 districts – as against the assured 400 districts with the allocation of Rs 12,000 crore. This is only marginally higher than the allocation made last year, thus the resources in each district for the NREGA will in reality either decline or stagnate. Given the increase in trafficking of girls, large scale migration etc., the special initiatives required to enhance women’s employment are entirely missing.
The finance minister’s assurance on the ICDS expansion sounds hollow as the allocation in comparison to last year shows little increase. The increase in the outlay for ICDS has been from Rs 4087 crore in 2006-07 to Rs 4761 crore in 2007-08. The universal coverage ordered by the Supreme Court would require much larger allocation which the FM has failed to do. The legitimate claim of the anganwadi workers to a fair wage has been completely overlooked. This is a grave injustice perpetrated against a sizeable section of women workers, who are mostly from extremely poor backgrounds.
In the health sector also the allocation for the NRHM has been kept very meagre, and the post of ASHA has been retained as voluntary in nature. The allocation for the NCMP commitments is far below the requirement with a meager increase of Rs 3925 crore in total expenditure of health.
In the education sector alone, the budget has made some additional provisions to arrest drop outs, to encourage higher education, and these are welcome. However, the outlay for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has been cut. A special attempt to ensure that girls access these schemes should be undertaken.
The government has to be much more sensitive to the needs of this section, and AIDWA demands that the budget should reflect this concern by increasing the allocations for implementing the assurances given in the NCMP.