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Date: 28th February2015

AIDWA opposes anti-women & pro-corporate Budget, 2015-2016

The All India Democratic Women’s Association expresses its concern on the anti-people and anti-women character of the budget of 2015-2016. It notes with concern that the NDA government has provided sops and tax reductions to the corporate sector without addressing the problems of the mass of the laboring people in general and the women in particular. In the Economic Survey, 2014-2015 the Government states that it aims at ‘Wiping every tear from every eye’, but in reality it increases the burden on the people by increasing the burden of indirect taxes. This increase is in sharp contrast to the abolition of the wealth tax (replaced by a 2 per surcharge) and the phased reduction of corporate tax. Therefore despite all its populist pronouncements, the budget is pro-rich and pro-corporate in its orientation.
The anti-people and anti-woman character of the budget is evident in the long term direction for the withdrawal of the state from the social sector. The total social sector allocation in the budget has come down from 16.3 percent 2014-2015 (budget estimates) and 15.06 percent revised estimates, 2014-15 to 13.7 percent of the Central budget outlay in 2015-2016. Within this overall decrease the percentage of allocation for women and child development remains stagnant at 0.01 percent of the total budget.
As far as gender budget is concerned, the budgetary allocations have decreased from 4.19 percent of the estimated total budgetary expenditure in 2014-2015 to 3.71 percent of the total expenditure in the current budget. In absolute terms this constitutes a decrease in 12.2 percent in the gender budget and almost a 49.3 percent decrease in the allocation of the Ministry of Women and Child Development over the revised budget of 2014-15. Even if we add the Rs. 1000 Cr for the Nirbhaya fund and Rs. 100 Cr for the Beti Bachao Andolan to the ministry’s allocation there is still a decrease of approximately 38 percent in the total amount allocated for women and child development.
One of the big casualties of this budget has been the MNREGS which has provided some employment to working class women. In his intervention in parliament, Prime Minister Modi stated that MNREGS symbolized the monumental failure of Congress led governments. This is an insult to the struggles of labouring women whose survival depends on these scheme. This is also reflected in the budgetary allocations. There is a nominal increase in the total budgetary allocations for MNREGS which will not even take care of the rising implementation costs. And adding insult to injury, the finance minister also states that he will only allocate an additional Rs. 5000 Cr to the scheme if there is an increase in the revenue receipts of the government. This shows the government’s lack of commitment to protecting employment of working class women.
Another main highlight of the budget is its apparent emphasis on social security schemes. The women’s organizations have been demanding universal social security coverage for all women workers. But there is no special focus on the needs of working women, especially in the unorganized sector, in this budget. While the budget creates a pension, old age pension and social safety net fund, it makes little financial commitment to these schemes. There is a virtual phasing out of schemes like shelter homes for single women, one stop crisis centres and there is only a meager allocation of Rs. 30 Cr for hostels for working women. The scheme for improving the working condition women and child labour has also got a meager increase.
As far as the allocations for women safety are concerned, the budget increases the Nirbhaya Fund by Rs. 1000 Cr. Though on the face of it this may be a welcome step, it needs to be noted that the previous allocations under Nirbhaya fund also went unspent as the government has no concrete plan to implement this fund.
The lack of concern of the Modi government with respect to health and well being especially for the nutrition of women is particularly evident in the budget. In its economic survey the budget criticizes the PDS systems and argues for the uniform application of the cash transfer scheme through JAM (Jan Dhan- Aadhar and Mobile network) as a means of implementing food subsidy. Experience shows that this policy measure has failed to ensure proper nutrition for women as it cannot ensure adequate food for them.
Further the allocations under the ICDS and Midday Meal Schemes have come down in the gender budget. Once again the government makes vague promises of increasing the allocations for ICDS by Rs. 1500 Cr on the condition that its revenue receipts increase. The gender budget in the health sector has been reduced by 17.9 percent over last years revised estimate.
Finally, the disregard for girls education is also evident in this budget. The overall gender budget for school education has come down by 8.3 percent over last years revised estimate. The budget for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has reduced by 9.5 percent. The much touted Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Abhiyan gets only Rs,. 100 Cr which is a mockery of this important slogan.
The medium and long term measures proposed by this budget will bring about structural changes that will place greater burden on all women, especially from the rural and urban poor sections. Thus, the AIDWA calls up on all its organizations and the women of the country to oppose this anti-people and anti-women budget.

Sd/- Sd/-
Malini Bhattacharya Jagmati Sanngwan
(President) (General Secretary)