(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 20, 2011
National Women’s Organisations
The organisations demanded that the government should:
· Enact a comprehensive food security act, allocate two per cent of GDP for this purpose.
· Ensure universal public distribution system as a core component of the act.
· Provide 100 days per household under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act; revise schedule of rates to fix realistic gender-sensitive work norms; pay the statutory minimum wages set by the states with full price indexing.
· Enact an Urban Employment Guarantee Act, on the lines of NREGA.
· Allocate 6 per cent of GDP for health
· Allocate 6 per cent of GDP for education
· Make adequate budgetary allocation to cover special schemes for women workers
· Funds for agriculture to be prioritised, increase allocation for food production; special attention be paid to women farmers
· Enhance resource allocation for tribal, dalit, and minority women, ensure that funds under these heads are not diverted
· Increase budgetary support for schemes to assist women-headed households, senior citizens and differently abled women
· Ensure proper gender budgeting in all ministries and departments.
The memorandum elaborated its demands, drawing attention to the appalling situation of women who had not benefited in the least from the much publicised high growth rates, as follows:
The International Food Policy Research Institute's estimate of the hunger index for the 17 major states in 2008 (more than 95 per cent of the population of India) showed that 80 per cent of the rural population, 64 per cent of the urban population, and 76 per cent of the total population suffer from inadequate calorie and food consumption. The government must formulate a food security bill that takes into account this reality, and scrap targeting; universalise the PDS and delink entitlements from the Planning Commission's debatable poverty estimates; include commodities like pulses, sugar, cooking oil and kerosene at subsidised rates; and provide at least 35 kilograms of grain at Rs 2 per kg. The government is once again holding 60 million tonnes, well over the buffer norms, which must be distributed to curb the inflationary trend.
Agriculture witnessed a negative growth rate last year, which has serious implications for per capita availability of food grains. The allocation for agriculture in general, and irrigation and food production in particular, must be increased substantially, to increase employment opportunities both in agriculture as well as rural non-farm employment. Diverse cropping patterns and crop cycles should replace commercial cropping. Crops of the dry lands regions (like millets, oilseeds and pulses) which are crucial for food security must receive greater support through a special package.
The budget must ensure that women cultivators are able to access institutional credit to which they are still denied access due to the absence of land titles and other collateral in their name. Support for sustainable agriculture programmes under the National Rural Livelihood Scheme ,including the Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran programme must be delinked from microfinance operations and the formation of SHGs. Women farmers who do not wish to be part of SHGs must also be able to benefit from these programmes. The interest subsidy should be increased so that the repayment rate is not more than four per cent. Debt relief packages should be made gender sensitive. Relief packages for suicide ravaged families should take into consideration the problems faced by widows while re-starting cultivation of the lands.
According to the National Health Profile (2009), 69.5 per cent of children in the age group 6-59 months, 55.53 per cent of married women and 57.85 per cent of pregnant women in the 15- 49 age group, are anaemic. The high levels of maternal and infant mortality rates in India continue to be serious health challenges. Hence public expenditure on health should be increased to at least 6 per cent of GDP.
Rural health care infrastructure must be strengthened, and the budget must make higher allocations for primary health care centres. Provision of safe drinking water and universal sanitation, especially in rural areas and urban slums, should be budgeted for. Child-care facilities should be provided for all working women, including from the unorganised sector, and maternity benefit allowance should be raised, in addition to Janani Suraksha Yojana, to Rs 6000/- per delivery. This should not be linked to the two child norm or to BPL category.
The Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojna, where pregnant women are to be given a conditional cash incentive of Rs 4,000 for pre-natal and post-natal care, should cover all women, without linkage to the BPL category.
The budget must provide increased outlays for training of nurses.
14 lakh anganwadi centres should be set up as per the Supreme Court orders to universalise the ICDS, and the provision for all child specific schemes should increase to at least Rs 12,000 crores. The ICDS should be made an effective tool of health care delivery to children under six and their mothers. The quality of food served in ICDS centres and under the mid day meal scheme should be improved. Packaged foods should not replace hot, freshly cooked meals.
The child care provision under the NREGA is not being implemented in most states, and provision of child care even as per existing laws is being denied by the private sector. As more and more workers are today located in the informal sector of the economy, and many are migrants, it is imperative that this aspect be given significant attention.
Shamefully, on the index of adult literacy, India is in the 148th position globally.Government should allocate 6 per cent of GDP for education to make it universal, equitable and qualitative for all children from three to fourteen years of age. Adequate budgetary provisions must be made to implement the Right to Education Act. It is imperative that the National Literacy Mission be de-bureaucratised and funded adequately.
To achieve universal access and quality education, expenditure on SSA must be increased and education centres should be upgraded to proper schools.
Special funds should be earmarked to ensure separate and functional toilets with water provisions in all schools and for building compound walls in schools to upgrade security.
Also, primary schools need to be set up within one km radius of all habitations, especially in rural areas, and proper secondary schools within three km of all habitations. There should be more scholarship schemes for girls in secondary schools, particularly for educationally and economically deprived categories and more allocation for vocational, job oriented training.
The provisions of the Unorganised Worker’s Social Security Act 2000, should not be confined to BPL workers. The budget must provide resources to ensure social security for all categories of unorganised sector workers, and for special schemes for home-based workers, domestic workers, etc. Women working in government schemes like ICDS, NRHM, midday meals in schools, etc should be recognised as workers and paid minimum wages, with budgetary allocation for this purpose.
Migrant workers should be recognised as a special category and their needs, such as access to PDS, health, education and child care facilities etc., even when they are away from their place of permanent residence, should be budgeted for.
Fund allocation for the MGNREGA must be increased to ensure that every member is entitled to a minimum of 200 days work, and the act must be amended accordingly. The present average of 42 days work per household is an indictment of its faulty implementation. The allocation should reach the districts in time so that works are not held up and wages are not delayed. Statutory minimum wages must be paid in accordance with the Minimum Wages Act 1948, and these must be brought in line with the price level with a revision in the schedule of rates so that they are realistic and gender-sensitive. Efficient monitoring of MGNREGA is needed to check misuse and non-utilisation of funds.
There is also an urgent need to put in place an urban employment guarantee act.
The guidelines of SCSP (earmarking 16 per cent of plan allocations for SCs) and TSP ( earmarking 8 per cent of plan allocations for STs) have not been fulfilled in this budget also. The union budget outlays for SCSP and TSP as proportion of the total plan allocation of the union government (excluding the central assistances to the state & UT plans) for SCs is 7.19 per cent and for STs is 4.43 per cent.
Proportional allocation for SCs, STs and minorities must be made, with a well-defined gender component. Adequate outlay must be provided for implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations
The coverage of single women and women headed households under various heads needs to be enhanced considerably. In particular widow pension schemes, shelters for women in distress, hostels for single working women with or without children, shelters for children without adult protection, shelters for senior citizens, need to be provided. The allocation for social welfare schemes must be increased for beneficiaries as well as for administrative expenses. The provision regarding widows with sons losing their eligibility for receiving the widow pension should be removed. Special allocation for addressing the needs of senior citizens needs to be made.
There must be an additional focus on ensuring support and shelter for women victims of violence.
There should be special schemes and allocations to address the needs of differently abled women, who are currently almost invisible, and are at the fag end of welfare programmes. The allocation of resources must be within women specific schemes as well as in general schemes.
Direct credit facilities by banks to the SHGs should be put in the priority sector. At the same time the priority sector tag should be removed from credit that is given by banks to microfinance institutions. Interest subsidies on bank lending to SHGs should be increased. The government should ensure that all women get credit at low interest rates and in a manner that their repayment rate does not exceed 4 per cent per annum. Provision should be made by government to play a supportive role for SHGs by enhancing the outlay fro Rashtriya Mahila Kosh.
LEGISLATIONS FOR WOMEN
Budgetary allocation must be made at the central level to ensure that the institutional mechanisms for the proper implementation of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act are set up. Similar efforts should be made to implement other protective legislations. The setting up of women headed police stations must be expedited and budgeted for.
The target of 30 per cent gender allocations under all ministries must be implemented immediately. Sex-disaggregated data must be made available to enable assessment of the expenditure and outcomes in gender terms.
The memorandum called on the FM to recognise that many more women today shoulder the burden of running the household and of feeding the family, and this has to be reflected in the policy and planning process at all levels. They exhorted the FM to ensure that the forthcoming budget reflected the needs and problems of women adequately.
The memorandum was signed by Vimal Thorat(AIDMAM), Sudha Sundararaman(AIDWA), Gomathi Nair (AIWC), Mary John(CWDS), Mohini Giri(GOS), Jyotsna Chatterjee(JWP), Azra Abidi(MWF), Annie Raja(NFIW), and Leila Passah (YWCA).