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Budget gives social sector short shrift

Budget gives social sector short shrift
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First Published: Tue, Mar 01 2011. 12 26 AM IST

Updated: Tue, Mar 01 2011. 12 26 AM IST
The budget has allocated of total Rs160,887 crore, or 36.4% Plan allocation, to the social sector. The Bharat Nirman group of welfare schemes has together been allocated Rs58,000 crore. The income of workers and helpers at anganwadis, or government-run day-care centres, has been doubled. The move is expected to benefit nearly 2.2 million people. However, it has not been replicated for voluntary accredited social health activists of the National Rural Health Mission.
Allocation for the social sector in budget 2011 has increased by 17%, but some sector executives, particularly in healthcare, say the finance minister has given them the short shrift.
Pranab Mukherjee allocated Rs160,887 crore, or 36.4% of total Plan allocation, to the social sector.
Of this, the Bharat Nirman group of welfare schemes, including the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme, Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana, Indira Awas Yojana, National Rural Drinking Water Programme and Rural Telephony, have together been allocated Rs58,000 crore.
Allocation for healthcare has been increased by 20% to Rs26,750 crore.
“Yet again, initiatives to reform the healthcare agenda have gone unanswered in the Union budget,” said Prathap C. Reddy, chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group. “Though the budget had a significant allocation for infrastructure, not finding healthcare on the agenda of the finance minister takes another year away in bridging the affordability and accessibility gap in our country.”
Public expentiture on health hovers around 1% of the gross domestic product, or half the expected outlay.
Charu Sehgal, senior director, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India, said some other social sector areas have fared better.
“The increased coverage of Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (National Health Insurance Scheme) to include beneficiaries of MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) and some unorganized sectors such as hazardous mining and associated industries is an excellent step and will go a long way in increasing access to the poor and encourage private sector participation in rural areas,” Sehgal said.
The income of workers and helpers at anganwadis, or government-run day-care centres, has been doubled. The move is expected to benefit nearly 2.2 million people.
However, it has not been replicated for voluntary accredited social health activists of the National Rural Health Mission.
For the first time, specific allocations have been earmarked for the scheduled caste sub-plan and the tribal sub-plan. The budget allocation for tribal groups was increased from Rs185 crore in 2010-11 to Rs244 crore in 2011-12.
The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education For All Campaign) received a significant boost with a 40% hike in budgetary allocation, from Rs15,000 crore to Rs21,000 crore.
Mukherjee has also proposed a scholarship scheme for needy students from scheduled caste and scheduled tribe categories studying in classes 9 and 10, which could potentially benefit four million students.
radhieka.p@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, Mar 01 2011. 12 26 AM IST