Union Budget 2017-18: A Gender Analysis

May 26, 2017 | Prof. Vibhuti Patel (HOD, S.N.D.T. Women's University)

Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB)

 

Women and girls face various forms of vulnerability throughout the life cycle. They may face discrimination before or after birth; violence, harassment or abuse; neglect due to dependence and lack of access to resources; social prejudice; and exploitation – whether economic, political, social or religious. They are vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination regardless of where they are positioned on the economic and social spectrum. Additionally, their vulnerability increases significantly if they are poor, socially disadvantaged or live in a backward or remote area. GRB is a widely accepted strategy that has been employed across more than 100 countries to address this vulnerabilities.GRB is a tool for gender mainstreaming. It uses the Budget as an entry point to apply a gender lens to the entire policy process. It is concerned with gender sensitive formulation of legislation, policies, plans, programmes and schemes; allocation and collection of resources; implementation and execution; monitoring, review, audit and impact assessment of programmes and schemes; and follow-up corrective action to address gender disparities. GRB is not just a one-time activity. It is a continuous process that must be applied to all levels and stages of the policy process. It recognizes that the Budget is a powerful tool that can reduce the vulnerability of women and girls and transform their situation[1].

 

 

GRB ensures that overall policy/programme planning, budgeting; implementation and auditing continuum are gender responsive. The idea behind GRB is not about literally dividing funds in a fifty-fifty ratio among men and women.

GRB is about bringing a gender perspective in policy making at different levels. For example, the recent schemes like Digital India are noteworthy but lack specific focus on digital empowerment of girls and women given the gender inequality in society. At grass root level, often women with low or no literacy levels are left out in technological shifts which become important part of daily life in society. Likewise, there is scope to integrate safety of women as a major concern in flagship centrally sponsored schemes such as Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), PMGSY, etc. Under Smart Cities Town planners, policy makers and budget experts need to do gender budgeting to ensure women-friendly civic infrastructure- water, sanitation, health care, safe transport, public toilets, help lines, skill development for crisis management and, safe transport and safety at work place.

 

In brief, it needs to be recognized that women’s issues do not have to be seen as the concerns of the Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD) and Social Welfare (SW) Departments alone. There is a need to recognize that women are contributors to and recipients of services provided by different departments like Health, Education, Home, Tribal, Public Works, RDD, Housing, Social Justice, etc. and that they have different needs. Policies have to be thus designed and financed accordingly to create maximum benefits to all.

 

Have Gender Commitments translated into Financial Commitments?

 

The GBS, first presented in Union Budget 2005-06, aims to capture budgetary resources earmarked for women and girls by Union ministries and departments. The Statement is presented in two parts: Part A enlists schemes and programmes meant entirely for the benefit of women and girls; while Part B reports schemes in which at least 30 percent of the funds benefit women and girls.

 

Budgetary Outlays for Ministry of Women and Child Development

 

MWCD is the nodal ministry to formulate and implement plans, policies and programmes for the empowerment of women. There has not been increase in the financial allocation in real terms due to inflation during the current decade during the budget years 2012-13 and 2017-18 as can be seen in the tale below:

 

The budgetary outlays to MWCD have increased from Rs. 17,408 in 2016-17 (BE) to Rs. 22,095 crores in 2017-18 (BE). However, the bulk of MWCD’s allocations are for the ICDS programme, which itself requires higher allocations as observed by the Department related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development, 2016 (Report No.278) which stated “… Ministry should put in efforts to make sure that the shortage of funds does not become a hindrance in implementing the scheme and also in enhancing the outreach of the scheme so as to include maximum number of beneficiaries”.

 

There has been a notable increase in the allocations to the Maternity Benefit Programme (formerly known as Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahayog Yojana) from Rs. 400 crores in 2016-17 (BE) to Rs. 2,700 crores in 2017-18 (BE). This allocation is close to GOI’s estimate of a requirement of Rs. 7,348 crores for the scheme for the period 2017-18 to 2019-20 to be borne by the Union Government. However, as per the estimates of Standing Committee on Food ,Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (2012-13), the total scheme expenditure towards maternity benefits to 2.25 crores pregnant and lactating women works out to be Rs. 14,512 crores per annum (to be borne by Centre and states). Going by this estimate, this allocation seems to fall short of the required funds to universalise the scheme.

 

Other schemes, such as those for addressing the needs of women in distress such as Swadhar Griha, and One Stop Crisis Centres have witnessed marginal increases, which are inadequate to ensure both adequate coverage and quality of services. As of July 2016, 17 One Stop Centres were operational in the country through the funds provided by MWCD. It was also proposed to expand the scheme to 150 additional districts during 2016-17. However, this does not seem to have taken place, taking into account the Revised Estimates of 2016-17 for the scheme. (Rajya Sabha Un-starred Question no. 1327 answered on 28 July 2016). Given the criticality of the issue, it is imperative that the Union Government continues to supplement the efforts of states in this domain.

 

The Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls-SABLA, launched in 2010 continues to be implemented in pilot phase.

 

 

• The allocations to Ministry of Women and Child Development have increased from Rs.17, 408 crores in 2016-17 (BE) to Rs. 22,095 crores in 2017-18 (BE).

• Total magnitude of the Gender Budget Statement is Rs. 1, 13,327 crores in 2017-18 (BE) as compared to Rs.90, 770 crores in 2016-17 (BE).

• An allocation of Rs. 2, 700 crores in 2017-18 (BE) to Maternity Benefit Programme (formerly known as Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahayog Yojana).

• Mahila Shakti Kendras with an allocation of Rs. 500 crores to be set up at village level in 14 lakh ICDS Anganwadi Centres. This will provide one stop convergent support services for empowering rural women with opportunities for skill development, employment, digital literacy, health and nutrition.

• An action plan to reduce Infant Mortality Rate from 39 in 2014 to 28 by 2019 and Maternal Mortality Rate from 167 in 2011-13 to 100 by 2018-2020 has been announced, though details are still awaited.

• Under Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, it is proposed to double the lending target of 2015-16 and set it at Rs. 2.44 lakh crores. Priority will be given to women, besides Dalits, Adivasis, backward classes and minorities.

 

The persistence of gender inequality reflected in socio- economic indicators and the increasing incidence of violence against women in the country underscores the need for substantive measures to be implemented by the government. Women experience distinct disadvantages and budgets are an important policy instrument to address these.  

 

What does the Gender Budget Statement 2017-18 reflect?

 

The overall magnitude of the GBS in 2017-18 (BE) is Rs. 1, 13, 327 crores, an increase from Rs. 90,770 crores in 2016-17 (BE). A total of 26 ministries and departments and 5 Union Territories have reported their interventions in the GBS this year. The Department of Telecommunications, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, and Ministry of Panchayati Raj have not reported their programmes in the GBS this year, while the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has initiated reporting in the GBS.

 

The total allocations in Part A of the GBS are Rs. 31,390.8 crores in 2017-18 (BE), which as a proportion of the Union Budget, shows an increase from the previous years.

 

The increase in allocations in Part A of the GBS this year is primarily on account of increased allocations reported by MWCD, Department of Rural Development (for Rural Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana) and Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (for LPG connections to poor households). It may, however, be noted that Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana is not a scheme meant only for women, hence its inclusion in Part A of the GBS is questionable. The scheme for LPG connections to poor households, is a welcome intervention as it serves to reduce women’s drudgery and addresses health concerns associated with the use of chulhas; however, its reporting as a scheme benefiting women exclusively also inadvertently endorses the gender stereotype that domestic duties like cooking are primarily the responsibility of women.

 

Allocations in Part B of the GBS have increased from Rs. 73, 2012 crores in 2016-17 (BE) to Rs. 81,395 crores in 2017-18 (BE). However, there do not seem to be any significant improvements in the reporting by ministries/departments in Part B of the GBS. Most departments/ministries continue to report a flat 30 percent or 50 percent of the total allocations in the GBS retrospectively, rather than identifying the gender based disadvantages in their respective sectors of concern and the budgetary resources earmarked to address these specific challenges. Some changes in reporting of select schemes under certain ministries such as Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmer’s Welfare have been observed. However, the rationale underlying these changes is not clear as the GBS does not provide any justification/rationale for reporting of schemes by departments/ministries in the statement.

 

Analysis of GBS also highlights that important ministries continue to be outside the ambit of Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB). For instance, the lack of safe sanitation facilities is recognized to be closely linked to the incidence of violence against women. However, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation is yet to adopt GRB. Likewise, other important ministries such as Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Law and Justice and Ministry of Tourism have not yet adopted GRB.

 

 

Operationalisation of Nirbhaya Fund

 

The Nirbhaya Fund, introduced in Union Budget 2013-14 is a key Union Government intervention that aims to enhance the safety and security of women in the country. The total magnitude of the corpus is Rs. 3,000 crores. As of January 2017, sixteen proposals amounting to Rs. 2,187 crores have been appraised and recommended by the Empowered Committee of Officers, an inter-ministerial committee that appraises and recommends various proposals/projects proposed by different Ministries/Departments/States under the Fund.

 

From the information provided in the Union Budget documents, it could be interpreted that the amounts utilized under the Nirbhaya Fund lacks clarity. The government must make information on the allocations and utilisation of interventions under the Fund available in the public domain. Also, important proposals, such as the Central Victim Compensation Fund, proposed under the Nirbhaya Fund, do not seem to have been introduced in Union Budget 2017-18.

 

The hurdles in the operationalisation of Nirbhaya Fund have affected its effective utilisation. The low utilisation of the Fund indicates the lack of priority towards the issue of women’s safety and security. The implementation of this Fund presented an opportunity to institute a comprehensive set of measures by appropriate departments and ministries. Given government’s stated commitment towards enhancing women’s safety in the country, it is imperative to undertake steps to ensure optimal utilisation of the Fund.

 

Government of India (GoI) adopted “Budgeting for Gender Equity” as a mission statement in 2004–05; which was followed shortly by the production of the first gender budget statement (GBS) in 2005–06. In the past decade, the work around GRB has deepened at central as well as state levels in India. As per the records of the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) nine states have officially adopted GRB in some form or the other. However, unofficial estimates point to a much higher number. Also, about 57 ministries and departments at the central government levels have established these cells.

 

[1] Gender Budgeting Handbook: GoI: 2015

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