To­wards a gen­der and poverty-sensitive Bud­get

All eyes are on the new Fi­nance Min­is­ter, who spear­headed Gen­der Bud­get­ing a decade-and-a- half ago

The Hindu Business Line - - THINK - AASHA KA­PUR ME­HTA BHASKAR

Fif­teen years ago, Nir­mala Sithara­man and other Mem­bers of the Na­tional Com­mis­sion for Women unan­i­mously pri­ori­tised a list of 11 de­mands for Bud­get 2004. Sithara­man had just joined NCW as a Mem­ber a few weeks be­fore a Na­tional Con­sul­ta­tion on Gen­der Bud­get­ing was held in De­cem­ber 2003.

I pre­sented the back­ground pa­per ti­tled “The Bud­get: A Gen­der and Poverty Sensitive Per­spec­tive” at the Na­tional Con­sul­ta­tion. Based on the Na­tional and State level con­sul­ta­tions with ex­perts and grass­roots or­gan­i­sa­tions, the full Com­mis­sion unan­i­mously pri­ori­tised a list of 11 de­mands in a doc­u­ment ti­tled “Bud­get 2004 — NCW Mem­o­ran­dum for the Union Fi­nance Min­is­ter”. These were:

(i) Reduction in MMR in 300 dis­tricts where it was high;

(ii) Ac­cess to ba­sic vil­lage in­fra­struc­ture through sus­tain­able sup­ply of wa­ter and in­di­vid­ual house­hold la­trines;

(iii) Re­gen­er­at­ing 100 mil­lion hectares of de­graded lands and wa­ter bod­ies to pro­vide em­ploy­ment as well as en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity;

(iv) Ear­mark­ing funds for women through SHGs in 100 drought prone

dis­tricts for cul­ti­va­tion of medic­i­nal herbs, flow­ers, veg­eta­bles and hor­ti­cul­ture;

(v) Sup­port for fam­i­lies of un­reached sec­tions such as mi­grant con­struc­tion work­ers through iden­tity cards, med­i­cal care, grain ra­tion and chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion;

(vi) De­vel­op­ment of a pro­gramme ex­clu­sively for tra­di­tional fisher-fam­i­lies;

(vii) Em­ploy­ment-linked train­ing for women in tra­di­tional and non­tra­di­tional trades;

(viii) Pro­vi­sion of all un­tied Cen­tral funds di­rectly to the Pan­chay­ats to em­power them;

(ix) De­vel­op­ment of a Satel­lite Ac­count to in­clude in de­tail the in­vis­i­ble work un­der­taken by women;

(x) Recog­ni­tion of the in­vis­i­ble work done by women, the “care econ­omy” which is sav­ing the ex­che­quer the bur­den of doles to the un­em­ployed and relief to the sick and aged;

(xi) Sup­port in the con­text of the im­pact of glob­al­i­sa­tion on women’s un­seen and un­paid work.

The is­sues pri­ori­tised for Bud­get 2004 by the present Fi­nance Min­is­ter are pre­cisely the is­sues that need ur­gent at­ten­tion now.

The vexed is­sue of the in­vis­i­bil­ity of women’s eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties as well as their care work and un­paid work are yet to be recog­nised. There Still in­vis­i­ble is an in­cor­rect per­cep­tion that the fe­male work par­tic­i­pa­tion rate in In­dia is very low. Un­paid SNA work or un­paid eco­nomic con­tri­bu­tion of mil­lions of In­dian women on fam­ily farms, look­ing after live­stock, mak­ing snacks and con­tribut­ing to prod­ucts that are sold by the men in the house­hold re­mains un­recog­nised and in­vis­i­ble.

The lack of at­tri­bu­tion of women’s SNA Work or Con­tri­bu­tion to Eco­nomic Ac­tiv­i­ties and GDP must be rec­ti­fied through ac­cu­rate data col­lec­tion and prob­ing ques­tions. Most women in vil­lages and slums work to en­able the sur­vival of their fam­i­lies and ad­di­tion­ally carry the dou­ble and triple bur­den of do­mes­tic du­ties and care work.

How­ever, de­spite work­ing so hard the re­turns are so low that they are un­able to meet their house­hold ex­penses. Ad­e­quate bud­getary al­lo­ca­tions are needed to en­sure ef­fec­tive and full im­ple­men­ta­tion of ex­ist­ing leg­is­la­tions such as MGNREGA as well as ac­cess to de­cent work at liv­ing wages.

Pro-poor mea­sures

De­vel­op­ment of in­fra­struc­ture such as roads, es­pe­cially ru­ral roads is im­por­tant. But it is even more im­por­tant to en­sure that pave­ments along­side roads are safe. Pave­ments are used by the ma­jor­ity of those who are poor. Sim­i­larly, toi­lets in homes and com­mu­nity toi­let blocks have been built in ru­ral ar­eas but ac­cess to sus­tain­able sources of wa­ter and func­tion­al­ity need at­ten­tion.

We still need to ad­dress poverty, mal­nu­tri­tion, mor­tal­ity and ill health. We are ranked 103 out of 119 coun­tries on the Global Hunger In­dex 2018. Shocks such as ill health ex­ac­er­bate the sit­u­a­tion of the poor and cause de­scent into poverty of those who are above the poverty line.

Hence, it is im­por­tant to pro­vide universal and eq­ui­table ac­cess to qual­ity health care that is publicly pro­vi­sioned and free not just for preg­nant women but across the life­cy­cle. Far higher bud­getary al­lo­ca­tions are needed to achieve universal ac­cess to health­care.

Ayush­man Bharat pro­vides par­tial cov­er­age for part of the pop­u­la­tion, but the scheme needs to be ex­tended and uni­ver­salised. Al­lo­ca­tions are also needed to sup­port all those who are vul­ner­a­ble and un­reached. Mi­grant con­struc­tion work­ers and fish­er­folk are only two of the many such groups.

So­cial pro­tec­tion can­not be re­duced to to­kenism. For in­stance, the amount al­lo­cated by the Cen­tre for old age pen­sion or widow pen­sion is ₹200 per month and is far too low. Cen­tral caps on such al­lo­ca­tions must be re­moved.

In­dia was at the fore­front of Gen­der Bud­get­ing a decade and a half ago. How­ever, over the years we slowly lost the gains we had made. The Gen­der Bud­get re­quires sub­stan­tial work by Gen­der Bud­get Cells of Min­istries and De­part­ments as well as mind­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Gen­der Bud­get Char­ter is­sued in 2007 for it to be mean­ing­ful. We hope that a Fi­nance Min­is­ter who spear­headed Gen­der Bud­get­ing decades ago, will make this a re­al­ity.

The writer is Visit­ing Pro­fes­sor, In­sti­tute for Hu­man De­vel­op­ment, New Delhi

Women’s work CH VIJAYA

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.