(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 14, 2010
Anti-Poor, Anti-Women Budget: AIDWA
DESCRIBING the recent union budget as anti-poor and anti-women, the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) expressed disappointment and concern over its provisions. In a statement issued on February 26, the AIDWA said the budget would increase the misery of the ordinary people as it would lead to an escalation in prices of essential commodities with the increase in the excise duty on petroleum and petroleum products. This would place an additional heavy burden on the shoulders of the aam aadmi and aam aurat who are already reeling under an 18 per cent rate of food inflation. The AIDWA calls on women from all walks of life to join the protests against the repeated hike in petrol prices and the move to decontrol these prices.
The women and child development ministry has got an additional allocation of Rs 2446 crore, but most of this increase comes for two or three schemes. Several existing schemes have neither been reviewed nor strengthened. Ironically, the allocation for the National Commission for Women, which is supposed to play a premier role in enhancing women’s status and skills, has been reduced from Rs 9.06 crore to 7.75 crore. The allocation of resources for working women’s hostels is highly inadequate with a paltry increase of Rs five crore at a time when the number of working women is increasing steadily due to economic distress. The Rashtriya Mahila Kosh allocation has come down from Rs 20 to 15 crore, showing the government is not committed to supporting women’s livelihoods. Instead of providing budgetary support for this, the government has taken one step forward to privatise banking by giving banking licenses to non-banking financial companies. This will further increase the vulnerability of women’s self-help groups.
One of the disturbing aspects is the shamefully low expenditure on relief and rehabilitation for rape victims. Whereas the allocation was Rs 53.10 crore in the previous budget, actual expenditure was only Rs 16 lakh, and the current budgetary outlay has been reduced to Rs 36.2 crore. Yet again, there has been no allocation for providing infrastructure etc under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.
The budget shows that UPA II is not sincere about ensuring food security for the people. Its non-serious announcement on the introduction of the food security legislation has no backing in the allocations made. Nor has the minister attempted to address the growing exploitation of farmers through the corporatisation of agriculture. Instead, the reduction in food subsidy of over 400 crore and in fertiliser subsidy by 3000 crore shows that the government is committed to facilitating the penetration of the unfair free market agricultural trading system in the agrarian sector. This makes clear that the government is out to remove protective measures that had helped the Indian farmer in the pre-reform days. The need for a stronger public distribution system to combat widespread hunger and malnutrition, which has been the demand of women’s organizations, has been completely ignored. In fact, the government seems inclined to move towards dismantling the existing PDS, by substituting it with food coupons, which can only mean further exclusion of women and the BPL population from food security.
The mid-day meal scheme got an increase of 16 per cent in the budget, but neither full coverage nor minimum quality can be ensured in the context of a 20 per cent rate of inflation. This will further exacerbate the malnutrition among women and children, particularly those of the already marginalised sections. The increase for ICDS is 461 crore, which is just about enough to cover the existing centres, and cannot provide for the 14 lakh anganwadis to become functional, as per the Supreme Court directive.
While welcoming the announcement of Matritva Sahayog Yojna to assist the pregnant and lactating mothers, the AIDWA said allocations for health and education fall far short of our demand that each of these ministries should account for 6 per cent of the GDP. There is no mention of the ASHA worker, and no fund allocation to ensure just wages to this woman health activist. More ministries have been reviewing their programmes and providing gender break-ups. This is a positive development and needs to be extended and strengthened through dialogue with women’s organisations.
Taking exception to the finance minister remarks in his budget speech that “This budget belongs to aam aadmi,” the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) said the overall focus of the budget is away from the burning issues the aam aadmi is facing today. For instance, this budget is completely lacking in any concrete initiative to control the double digit inflation.
The other major concerns of aam aadmi like education, health and employment have also been neglected by not providing the required allocation. The DYFI said with paltry or no increase in the allocation we cannot expect a change towards the betterment in these areas. For example, the paltry increase of Rs 5000 crore on elementary education, of Rs 2500 crore on health and a little increase for NREGA fall short of the minimum requirement of aam aadmi today.
The vast majority of the common Indians are in the unorganised sector which includes a majority of our youth. In absence of any decent job opportunities, they are forced to engage themselves in something or the other. This vast sector in which more than 90 per cent of our workforce is involved, has been allocated only Rs 1000 crore.
Talking of the common spectacle of GDP growth without employment and development, the DYFI said the union budget 2010-11 would once again lead to jobless growth. For the public expenditure and investment in crucial areas is either stagnating or has been reduced. That is why this budget belongs to the khas aadmi who will enjoy large tax concessions and incentives at the cost of the aam aadmi.
The DYFI therefore urged upon the youth to protest against the anti-people, anti-youth proposals of the budget.