6 July 2009

The AIDWA expresses its deep concern over the budget proposals of 2009-10. The budget speech shows that the UPA government has betrayed the trust of the aam aadmi and aam aurat who had reposed their faith in the UPA in the recent elections. Our vulnerability to the recession afflicting the rest of the world is evident in the decline in growth rates by 2.3 per cent within a single year. Naturally, women will be the worst affected in this process, and therefore AIDWA had expected the budget to provide some relief to them. Instead of this, the main focus of the budget is on providing relief to the corporate sector, without providing adequate support to weaker sections and women. The exaggerated promises made in the President’s speech have not been backed by the resource allocations via the budget.

Food Security:  It appears that the government does not want to extend the food security net which is essential to address increasing malnutrition, hunger and anaemia amongst women and children. The paltry increase in food subsidy (from Rs 43627 crore to 52489 crore) is inclusive of the minimum support price provided for the purchase of foodgrains. Additionally, there is no increase in the outlays for mid day meal schemes. The increasing food prices would accentuate the crisis further. The demand of the women’s movement for universalisation and strengthening of PDS has been totally ignored. Without this, the proposed National Food Security Act can only fail in its objective.

Employment: The allocation for NREGA from 36,750 crores to 39100 crores can barely cover the proposed increase in wages to Rs.100/-. The inadequacies in implementation and coverage have not been addressed at all. Unfortunately, there is no mention of an employment guarantee scheme for the urban poor.

Debt relief: Though the debt relief scheme for farmers has been extended for 6 more months, the magnitude of the agrarian crisis has not been given the resource allocation that it required. It is unfortunate that even the interest reduction to 6% is incentive based.  Special attention to women farmers is completely missing. 
Gender issues The budget is shocking in the way it has short-changed women despite its rhetoric of social inclusiveness and equity. The total outlay for the nodal Ministry for women has decreased from Rs 466.5 crore in 2008-09 to 385.13 crore in 2009-10. The need for institutional support to working women has been trivialized by decreasing the allocation of government supported women’s hostels from 20 crore to 10 crore. This means the vulnerability of young women in an increasing contract oriented private economy has not been appreciated. The comprehensive scheme for combating trafficking has also suffered with the allocation reduced from 10 to 5 Crores. The much advertised national mission for empowerment of women gets a magnificent allocation of 1crore rupees.

Self Help Groups: Moreover, the RMK which is supposed to facilitate and support women SHGs has a reduced sum of 20 crores from the earlier 31 crores. The interest subsidy provided on loans is much less than the 4% rate of interest demanded   for priority sector lending. The intention of the government in bringing 50% of the rural women into SHG network is therefore suspect.

Social Sector: Given the challenges in the social sector, and the promises made by the UPA, the budget allocations are highly inadequate. How can the right to education be guaranteed with an increase of barely 200 crores in elementary education and a paltry 414 crores allocated for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. In health the overall increase of 2057 crores will barely cover the institutional and inflation costs. The demand to make health expenditure 5 per cent and education 6 per cent of the total budget remains a pipe dream.

The government has announced many tax proposals that benefit the corporate sector. These are likely to result in revenue losses and the government is attempting to make this up by curtailing social sector expenditure in general and expenditure women’s welfare in particular. This is unfortunate and ironic given the stated commitment of the UPA Government to gender budgeting and social inclusiveness.