People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 07

February 17, 2013




Budget must Reflect Women’s Concerns


On February 8, 2013, some national level organisations of women submitted a memorandum on the Budget 2013-14 to the  union finance minister, P Chidambaram, putting forward their key concerns that need to be addressed in the annual budget from a gender perspective. The text of the memorandum is reproduced here.


WE, the undersigned national women’s organisations, representing a large section of women of this country, especially those from the underprivileged and marginalised sections, would like to place before you some key concerns that need to be addressed in the Union Budget 2013-14.


We would, firstly, like to put on record our deep concern about the rise in various forms of violence against women --- sexual violence, economic and social violence --- which affect women across the social spectrum but particularly impact adversely on women from the vulnerable and marginalised communities. The violence has been exacerbated by economic disparities which are increasingly gendered, with women being amongst the most poor and asset-less amongst every social community and group. The lack of recognition of women’s contribution to the economy and its underestimation are issues that are central to the increasing discriminatory trends.


Given this unfortunate reality, and keeping in mind the urgent need for multiple interventions (as also pointed out by the Verma committee recommendations), the budget should make sufficient allocation for effective implementation of legislations for women; making urban and rural habitations safer by providing facilities like safe public transport, sanitation, child care centres for working mothers, and also provide the resources for short term and long term rehabilitation for victims of violence. It is disturbing to note that even the meagre 20 crores allocated to the scheme for providing  relief to rape victims in the previous budget was not utilised due to absence of  implementation mechanisms. The lack of accountability and monitoring processes has to be remedied, and assistance for rape and acid attack survivors must receive priority attention in the forthcoming budget.


We reiterate that the effort to close the gender gap, and make growth more equitable will depend on making resources available to women. This is essential to achieve social advance and deepen democracy.


In view of this we urge you to:


1) Ensure adequate resources for implementation and monitoring of the legislations pertaining to protection of women and children in all spheres of life, be it at home, workplace or in public spaces, with required budgetary provisions. The consistent refusal to provide central funding to implement the PWDV Act, 2005 is an injustice which needs immediate remedy. Allocation for widespread setting up of crisis intervention cells, short stay homes, and other related measures to assist women victims of violence to receive special attention.


2) Increase budgetary support for schemes to assist women-headed households, single women of different categories, senior citizens, victims of violence, and differently abled women and recognize women from economically motivated suicide affected households (peasants, handloom workers, etc) as a special category. Pension schemes for women should be made universal and unconditional. Pension amount for OAP, widow pension, should be enhanced. Special pension schemes for women who are victims of state violence, the “half widows” of Kashmir, and those affected by violence in conflict areas to be designed with adequate funding.


3) Ensure universal coverage under the proposed National Food Security Act with sufficient allocation to provide not less than 35 kg of grains at not more than Rs 2 per kg per nuclear family through a strengthened PDS.


4) Direct cash transfers instead of food and fuel is unacceptable, cash cannot ensure food security. Provisioning of food and essential commodities at affordable cost is the responsibility of the government and adequate allocation should be made in the budget towards this. Any attempt at replacement of subsidies for food and essential commodities with direct cash payments will affect women adversely, and should be given up.


5) Women’s work participation has shown a decline in this period, indicating the negative impact of the sluggish economy on women. The agrarian sector is in crisis. The government must take serious note of this critical situation, and provide at least 200 days per household under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act; the schedule of rates to fix realistic, gender-sensitive work norms has to be revised; the government should not pay less than the statutory minimum wages set by the States with full price indexing. Further, to address the depressing state of female employment in urban areas there is a need to enact an effective Urban Employment Guarantee Act.


6) Allocate resources for creation of more jobs for women under specific schemes for unorganized sector women workers, migrant workers, etc. Expand the provisions of the Unorganised Worker’s Social Security Act 2008 to all categories of unorganized sector women and remove the BPL conditionality.


7) Recognise women working in the ICDS (Anganwadi), National Rural Health Mission (ASHA) and Mid-Day Meal Schemes as employees and ensure minimum wages to all, along with regularisation and improvement of working conditions.


8) Increase resources for universalisation and full coverage under the ICDS, with programmes for child care and protection of the girl child. Universalize and increase maternity benefit allowance. Universalise the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojna, which currently provides a conditional cash incentive of Rs 4,000 for pre-natal and post-natal care and extend it to reach all pregnant women in all districts, irrespective of BPL category.


9) The funds made available for health care, inclusive of NRHM allocation, have not crossed one per cent of the GDP. Apart from the millions of women and children suffering exclusion and denial of health care, over 10 lakh women recruited as ASHA are paid a pittance, with no service conditions, or strategy to develop them into a nursing workforce. The 12th plan direction towards increased investments through corporate channels, private public partnerships (PPP), and insurance mechanisms would exacerbate existing denials. Allocate six per cent of GDP for public health care. Strengthen rural health care infrastructure with adequate budget allocations for primary health centres. Withdraw all forms of user fees in the public health system and provide essential drugs and diagnostics free of cost in all PHCs. Bring the entire essential drug list under price control. Enhance the allocation for training of nurses.


10) Educational provision remains highly differentiated in both quantitative and qualitative terms. The implementation of RTE Act has been far too slow. Universal access to quality schooling is an issue even if access to education is ensured. There is a need to ensure equal access to higher education among all socio-economic groups and gender. Allocate six per cent of GDP towards implementation of the RTE Act, improving quality of education and enhancing higher education.


11) Increase allocations for food production, strengthen procurement, storage and distribution mechanisms in the agricultural sector and make a special budgetary provision for women farmers.


12) Enhance gender specific resource allocation for tribal, dalit, and minority women, and ensure that funds under these heads are not diverted.


13) The coverage of the SHG bank linkage programme should be expanded and direct credit by banks to SHGs should be part of the priority sector. Interest subsidies on bank lending to SHGs should be increased through higher budgetary allocations for SHGs so that their repayment rate does not exceed four per cent per annum. Women from vulnerable social groups like dalits, tribals and minorities should receive credit at interest rates that do not exceed two per cent per annum.


14) Ensure the implementation of 30 per cent allocations for women with proper gender budgeting in all ministries and departments. Accountability and transparency should be ensured and a monitoring mechanism should be set up so that women are the real beneficiaries of gender budgeting.


15) (a) Ensure increased political participation of women at all levels. To strengthen elected women representatives at the Panchayat level, there is a need to provide financial support in the form of   honorarium for members, travel allowances, sitting fees etc. Budgetary provisions to support training of these members has to be enhanced. (b) Facilitate a process of village, taluka/union and district panchayats preparing a scheduled caste/ tribe development plan with a clear gender responsive budget, which should become a charter to work towards their economic development in the panchayats.  


16) Take effective measures to unearth and recover huge accumulation of black money in the economy, including unaccounted money in tax havens abroad and use it for strengthening social security programmes. Corporate financial scandals to be checked. 


Sir, state accountability to acknowledge and secure women’s leadership roles, and their entry into public life must be strengthened through the budget provisions. We would also point out that increasing corporatisation and privileging of the elite sector has spelt misery for a large section of the working people of this country- its women.


Hence, we the undersigned women organisations urge you to take these aspects into consideration during the formulation of the Union Budget 2012-13 and ensure that it adequately reflects the concerns of women.     


We would still be happy if we are given an opportunity to meet you in the coming week to explain our views further.


The signatories to the memorandum were Vimal Thorat (All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch), Sudha Sundararaman (All India Democratic Women’s Association), Annie Raja (National Federation of Indian Women), Indu Agnihotri (Centre for Women’s Development Studies), Dr Mohini Giri (Guild of Service), Dr Jyotsna Chatterjee (Joint Women’s Programme), Azra Abidi (Muslim Women’s Federation), Beena Jain (All India Women’s Conference) and Leila Passah (Young Women’s Christian Association).