The All India Democratic women’s association rejects the Budget 2020-2021 as pro-corporate anti people budget which will increase the burden of women, particularly of women from the working class, minorities and other socially vulnerable sections. It notes that this budget has been presented in a context of an unprecedented systemic crisis in the economy that has been consistently ignored by the government. Instead the budget pushes the economy into a higher level of financial and economic policy reforms which will result in greater dependence of the people on credit and insurance, without having access to productive employment and public services. The size of the government spending remains at 13.5 percent of the project GDP in the estimates of 2020-2021, a mere 0.3 percent more than the revised estimates of 2019-2020. The proportion of the total gender budget to the GDP has reduced from 0.69 percent of revised estimates for 2019-2020 to 0.63 percent of proposed estimates for 2020-2021.
The allocations for the Ministry of Women and Child Development are an abysmal 0.98 percent of the total projected expenditure in 2020-2021. In the wake of increasing violence against women it is also surprising that the funds for women’s safety have hardly seen any substantial increases. We further note, that women specific allocations for women from minorities, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes have increased by a mere 8.2 percent since 2019-2020 and constitutes only 4.3 percent of the total gender budget. This exposes the falsity of the 'jumla' by the BJP government - ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas and sabka vishwas’.
This drastic fall in women’s employment is a result of persistent agrarian distress and collapse in non-agricultural work which has been caused by the faulty neo-liberal policy reforms of the government.
The current budget only deepens this crisis by further integrating the agricultural sector with big finance capital and reducing budget for rural employment generating schemes particularly the MGNREGA by 13.3 percent and reducing the gender specific rural employment budget by 10 percent. This makes it clear that the government is not interested in addressing the problems of jobloss growth which has characterized the systemic economic crisis that has resulted in a historic low in the worker population ratio among women being i.e., 16.5 percent and pushed 8.52 percent of the women outside the workforce between 2012 and 2018.
Another important feature of the economic crisis, which has been suppressed by the government, is the fall in household consumption expenditure by about 40 percent between 2012 and 2018, thus reflecting an increase in poverty within the country. The direct impact of this is seen in the fact that India has an abysmal ranking of 102 out of 117 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2019 and a third of its children and women face severe malnutrition. The government has allocated 65000 Crore for addressing the problem of malnutrition, but these allocations are not seen in any substantial increases for the expansion of either the ICDS or Midday meal programme. Further the food subsidy has only gone up by 0.6 percent over the actual expenditures of 2019-2020, and has in fact decreased by about 3.7 percent over amount allocated in the budget estimates of 2019-2020. This will adversely impact on the food security of a large section of our population.
The Finance Minister has announced policy measures which will lead to the privatization of health care and education. She has introduced FDI into the Higher education and introduced measures where most of the increases in health and education are linked to credit and insurance based schemes. There is hardly any expansion in social infrastructure through public spending as the policy shift makes it clear that the main intent of reforms is to attract private investment in these sectors. This will have a negative impact of the access of women and girl children to affordable and good quality healthcare and education.
The Finance Minister has introduced tax rebates for middle class, with a rider that a person availing of this new tax structure will give up all previous income tax exemptions. This means that the actual reduction in taxes will only be very little. Further such tax exemptions will be applicable to less than 2 percent of the population. In contrast, several measures have been announced to provide tax holidays and reductions to the corporate sector.
Lastly, but not the least, the Finance Minister has announced the disinvestment of LIC which will put the savings of several working class families at high risk. In addition to that she has announced several concessions to non-banking financial companies which provide high interest loans to women’s savings groups. These measures will further push women into a credit economy with a potential to increase indebtedness. It is clear that instead of making substantial increases in public investments, the government wants to mobilize the savings of working class women in the service of corporate financial giants.
AIDWA calls upon all democratic forces to reject and build resistance against this pro-corporate sector and anti-women budget.