MEMORANDUM ON BUDGET 2008-09
A delegation of Women Organisations met with the Finance Minister Mr P. Chidambaram on 14th February 2008 and presented to him a memorandum requesting for additional budgetary allocations and strengthening of schemes benefiting women and children. The detailed memorandum is enclosed
Noting the contents the Finance Minister assured that he will look into the concerns specially those related to widows pension.
He further advised that the Women Organisation should approach the States and make them accountable as it is their responsibility to ensure that the funds allocated by the Centre are utilised to the maximum.
JOINT MEMORANDUM ON BUDGET 2008-09
2 February 2008
The Finance Minister
Government of India,
We would like to remind that for the last several years we have been requesting the FM to involve women’s representatives and organizations and in the pre-budget consultations. This will help to enhance and strengthen the gender component of the Union Budget. We would like to reiterate that this practice needs to be introduced and acted upon, given the impact that the budget has on women as members of the labour force, citizens and home-makers.
1. GENDER BUDGETING
While the attempt to assess allocations made for women in the annual budget through the gender budget component is noteworthy, this effort has to be enhanced considerably. The recommendation made by the Mid Term Appraisal Committee of the Tenth Five Year Plan that 30% of all allocations within all ministries should reach women is far from being implemented.
Moreover, there are some misleading computations that artificially exaggerate the amount actually being spent on women. For instance, the entire budgets for ICDS and for the Ministry for Social Justice are regularly shown as women specific expenditure. The ambit of gender budgeting should include gender audit, and gender outcome assessment in all Ministries/ departments at Central and State levels. Further, it should extend beyond expenditure policies to cover the gender-differentiated implications of tax policies as well.
- Allocations should be provided to the gender budget cells located in the different ministries to strengthen their functioning.
- The recommendation made in the mid term appraisal of the 10th Plan that 30% expenditure should be allocated for women should be implemented rigorously.
- Sex-disaggregated data must be made available as far as possible. In its absence it is impossible to assess the expenditure and outcomes in gender terms.
- The notion that all schemes for children should automatically come under the gender component is patriarchal and discriminatory, and should be discontinued.
- We also submit the following expectations and demands from the women’s organizations for the forthcoming union budget spent on women.
2. CONTROLLING PRICE ESCALATION
The rise in prices of essential commodities is a matter of grave concern, and measures must be taken to ensure price stability and prevent speculation in essential commodities.
- Items removed from the scope of the Essential Commodities Act should be revoked and the Act used effectively to curb speculation and hoarding.
- The huge shortage of cooking gas has led to a bourgeoning black market in LPG cylinders, and the price of open market kerosene has also risen sharply in the process. Fuel is a matter of great concern for women, and this problem should be dealt with immediately.
3. ADDRESSING THE NEEDS OF WOMEN FARMERS
The agrarian crisis continues and there are some particular pockets of deep agrarian distress that need special attention. Women of rural households have been particularly adversely affected. Although credit to agriculture has increased, women cultivators continue to be denied access to institutional credit because of the absence of land titles and other collateral in their name. We therefore demand that the following steps be taken especially for women cultivators:
- Special measures to ensure that women cultivators who do not have land titles but are cultivating as tenants or on household land get access to institutional credit up to Rs. 150,000, as per RBI guidelines.
- A comprehensive debt relief package for farmers needs to be devised in view of the pervasive farm indebtedness. Such a package must have separate and explicit recognition of the needs of indebted women cultivators. The half-hearted measures to provide region-specific relief packages and token interest subvention need to be replaced by debt write-offs for small and marginal farmers across the country. Interest rates on farm loans must be brought down to 4%.
- Other crucial commitments made in the NCMP, such as ensuring fair and remunerative prices for farmers should be implemented.
- Relief must be provided for families of farmers who have committed suicide. Women should be recognised as farmers in this respect by all state governments, and relief packages should note the specific difficulties faced by widows in subsequent cultivation. The educational needs of children and particularly daughters should be taken into account. All suicide affected households must be eligible for a BPL card.
4. ENSURING FOOD SECURITY
Food security has emerged as a major problem across the country, especially in recent times. It is well known that food insecurity of households impacts women and girl children first. The latest NFHS-3 highlights the poor nutritional status of women and children, and the girl child in particular. The undermining of the PDS through targeting and the inability to ensure adequate food grain stocks procured from Indian farmers, have both played a role in this. Targeting in the PDS has shown itself to be excessively prone to errors of unfair exclusions. It is our experience that large sections of the poor, including widows, single women, tribal and Dalit women have been deprived of BPL cards that would give them access to cheaper food grain and in some cases of ration cards altogether. Moreover, those with cards do not get the full quotas. Given the commitment of the CMP to strengthen the PDS, we demand:
- A return to a universal system of distribution under the PDS, rather than the present targeted system, with a reasonable and low price for food grain and other essential commodities.
- Ensuring sufficient quantities of supply in the PDS system across all states to both BPL as well as APL households.
- A substantial increase in allocations for the Food Corporation of India and the PDS so as to ensure the extension of the PDS to all areas of the country.
- Until the universal system is adopted, a major revision of the determination of BPL households is urgently required. Instead of the current very complicated and dubious criteria, the BPL calculation should be based on the estimated costs of the minimum number of calories plus a basket of daily essentials needed for a healthy life as per the current prices. We suggest a minimum of Rs 850 per person per month as the bare minimum Poverty Line.
- Increased allocations to the National Food Security Mission.
5. WOMEN WORKERS
The absence of adequate opportunities for productive employment is one of the major problems facing women. Women form a large bulk of the unorganized work force, especially in the home based and domestic work segments. Women workers have been active participants in the NREGS and have contributed to its success. But the vast majority of women workers are underpaid and operate in highly insecure work conditions. Therefore we demand:
- Adequate funding of the NREGS, especially as it is to be extended to all districts, and ensuring that funds reach the districts in time so that works are not held up
- Financial provision for time and motion studies within NREGS to ensure proper piece rates that will ensure that women earn the prescribed minimum wage after a day’s work
- Ensuring the provision of child care facilities, rest and shade and other facilities as specified in the guidelines, with separate financial provision
- Extension of the employment guarantee to urban areas
- Anganwadi workers and health workers in the public system who perform crucial social functions should be entitled to receive minimum wages
- Provision for child care facilities for all working women, particularly from the unorganised sector
- Provision for providing hostels to working women should be increased
- Comprehensive legislation backed by adequate central funding to address the social security needs of all women workers
- The economic contribution of unpaid family workers should be recognised by extending social security provision to them as well.
There has been a decline in per capita public expenditure on health. The latest NFHS points to very poor performance in basic health indicators, including child immunisation. Serious issues of under-financing of major schemes such as the creation and up gradation of public health infrastructure, the provision of emergency ambulance services, the provision of essential drugs and supplies, and the failure to create institutional frameworks for programmes have to be overcome. The ICDS programme has also not been able to meet targets because its geographical coverage is inadequate, its main workers are declared voluntary and not paid even the statutory minimum wage, the expenditure per child on supplementary nutrition and child care is inadequate and the range of activities carried out in the centres also fall far short of what is required. In this context we demand:
- Public expenditure on health must be increased to at least 3 per cent of GDP as promised in the NCMP
- Outlays on provision of drinking water, universal sanitation and food security also need to go up as part of the commitment to safeguarding the health of the people
- The outlay for the ICDS programme and for all child specific schemes needs to be stepped up considerably from the current Rs. 4761 crore to at least Rs. 12,000 crore
The government is still far from allocating 6% of the GDP on education, as per the commitment made in the CMP. Significant increases in central government programmes on both literacy and education are required, and special allocations must be made to ensure greater access to women. We therefore demand:
- Literacy programmes must be expanded with an emphasis on functional literacy, especially given the large proportion of young women who remain illiterate
- Expenditure on SSA must be increased to ensure universal access, especially for girls, and “Education Centres” must be upgraded to proper schools to provide all children with good quality schooling
- Secondary school spending should be increased to ensure provision of proper secondary schools within 3 km of all habitations, so that girl students can attend school
- Special financial allocations should be made to ensure separate and functional toilets (with water provision) for girls in all schools
- An enhanced scholarship scheme for girls in secondary school, with special emphasis on girls from educationally deprived categories
8. OTHER DEMANDS
- SHGs: Allocations for self help groups should increase; more funds should be made available to them for credit at lower interest rates (4% per annum), health insurance and social security for their members and training and marketing support for the groups to become economically productive. The Rashtriya Mahila Kosh should be strengthened in order to play a supportive role for SHGs.
- Minority Women: Implementation of the Sachar committee recommendations requires a matching budgetary outlay; within this, there should be a subcomponent plan especially for Muslim women who are amongst the most deprived and marginalized sections of society today. The provision of Urdu language teaching in schools, and better amenities in the local schools and madrasas should be budgeted for. There should be special allocations for hostels and sanitation needs in schools.
- Tribal Women: In tribal areas, a special focus to ensure electrification of all tribal areas, PHCs, drinking water, and hostels for tribal girls with all required facilities, needs to be budgeted for. There should be a separate monitoring mechanism to ensure that this special fund is effectively utilized.
- Welfare Schemes for Women: There is a need for a major step up in outlays for welfare and social security schemes for women and children. In particular widow pension schemes, shelters for women in distress situations, hostels for single working women with or without children, and shelters for children without adult protection, need to be provided support to expand and improve quality of services. The restriction on widows with sons losing their eligibility for receiving the widow pension should be removed.
- DV Act: Since the funds required to implement the Domestic Violence Act have not been provided for at the central level, institutional mechanisms for implementing the Act are not in place. As a result, many women are facing difficulties in utilising the Act for their benefit. There has to be a budgetary allocation to ensure that the institutional mechanisms required for the proper implementation of the Act are properly operationalized.