By Dr Susmita Priyadarshini
After the presentation of the Union Budget 2016-17 in the Parliament by the Fince Minister Arun Jaitley, our Prime Minister rendra Modi proudly said that women and farmers were the biggest focus in the budget 2016-17. Earlier, on coming to power the Modi Government promised that women issues would be taken seriously and women’s development would be on their agenda. It bears significance from the perspective of India’s low rank in Gender Inequality Index, and decline in sex ratio. In UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index, India ranks 127 among 152 countries. Gender Inequality Index takes into account reproductive health, empowerment and economic status of women. There is decline in sex ratio from 976 in 1961 to 918 in 2011. In order to deal with the India’s gender challenges, gender responsive budgeting was started in the country in 2005. Part A of Gender Budget Statement contains schemes in which 100% provision is for women while Part B includes schemes where the allocation for women constitutes at least 30% of the provision. Sum of Part A and Part B gives us the idea of the budget for women. On this principle the overall budget for women this time is Rs. 90, 624.76 crore as against Rs. 81, 249.12 crore of 2015-l6fThe funds allocated to the women only schemes in various schemes in various ministries of the Government together showed an increase from Rs. 11, 388.41 crore of 2015- 16 to Rs. 17, 412.01 crore in 2016-17. But ironically the allocation to the Ministry of Women and Child Development shows no increase in the budget for
2016-17. Last year the allocation to the Ministry of Women and Child Development were slashed from Rs. 21194 crores to less than Rs. 10382 crores. Facing criticism from several quarters, it was ultimately revised upward and the figure showed an upward revision of Rs. 17352 crores. But this year’s allocation is roughly at the same level of Rs. 17408 crores. Will it be sufficient for gender development in India? Besides, this year the number of Ministries and Departments reporting in the gender Budget Statement has also declined to 31 from 34. Similarly, it is unfortute that nothing was allocated to the scheme for the protection of victims of domestic violence. Of course, the allocation to the tiol Mission for Empowerment of Women has been doubled to Rs.50 crores. Here empowerment aims at both social and economic empowerment of women. The budget states that an increased focus on the nutrition and protection of its women is need of the hour. Only time can say how seriously the Government has taken this issue. The tiol Nutrition Mission was announced in 2014-15 but the Mission is still not completely operatiol. A noble initiative to reduce girl child mortality as well as to increase education rate among girl students-Beti Bachao Beti Padhao -has received Rs.100 crore. Government announced a new initiative to provide cooking gas to women member of BPL families with state support. A sum of Rs. 1000 crore is set aside to meet the initial cost of providing this. This is a very positive step from the perspective of women health as it will free them from the curse of smoke while cooking. After the Delhi rape case of 2012, the Government of India set up Nirbhaya Fund in budget 2013-14. Since then Rs. 1000 crore has been allocated in each year. Even after Rs.
3000 crore allocation to the fund, little action has been seen to ensure safety of the women. Women’s safety is the biggest challenge before the Government. This year the fund will receive an additiol 500 crore. Rape crisis centres were reduced from 660 to 36 in budget 2015-16. When considered from the point view of opportunities for women to start entrepreneurial activities, India is placed at bottom three among 31 countries as lack of equal right hinder their opportunities(the 2015 Scorecard). The 2015 Gender Gedi Female Entrepreneurship Index ranked India at 70 out of the 77 countries.
In the budget 2016-17, Government has allocated Rs.500 crore for Scheduled caste, Scheduled tribes and women entrepreneurs in the budget under the Start up India Schemes. It is nice to see that the Government recognizes the problem of access to entrepreneurship for women. But it is not clearly stated in the budget how this fund is going to be allocated. Again, Priyadarshini scheme for women entrepreneurs did not receive any money in the budget. There is no special program for skill enhancement of women, The Government has announced that it will focus setting up shelter homes for women and equipping these homes with all facilities to teach them skill and thereby to give employment opportunities. It is seen that women in India particularly face threats from certain types of cancers which are akin only to women. The Government could have thought about giving tax deductions on the treatment of those diseases. Similarly there is no place for working women in the budget. Of course, digital literacy mission schemes will contribute to women empowerment. Overall, the budget 2016-17 does not include any revolutiory measure towards women empowerment .If we are to transform India into a gender equal society then all the processes-planning, budgeting, implementing and auditing must contribute to this. Madhya Pradesh has move ahead of other states in this respect. Indian women is breaking the glass ceiling each day and it is the duty of the policy makers and implementers to pave her way forward to a gender equal society.