Although under the Ninth Five Year Plan (1997-2002), central and state governments were required to ensure that “not less than 30% of the funds/ benefits are earmarked for women under the various schemes of the ‘women-related’ ministries/departments,” women-specific spending currently accounts for only around 5% of government expenditure.
“Budgets are symptomatic. If 5% of the budget is going to women it essentially indicative of what priority the government accords to women,” says Yamini Mishra, executive director of the New Delhi based Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability.
Mishra is a proponent of gender responsive budgeting: an approach of looking at the budget formulation process, budgetary policies and budget allocations, and implementation of those policies from the gender lens.
In the 2006-07 budget, the Union government created a gender budgeting statement, which attempts to capture the magnitude of total public spending on women. The statement is divided into two parts, Part A, which presents women-specific budget provisions under schemes in which 100% of allocations are for women and Part B, which presents women-specific budget provisions under schemes where such allocations constitute at least 30 percent of the total provisions. However Mishra points to the difficulty of quantifying what percentage of funds is reaching women under Part B: “This captures the situation at allocation level rather than capturing ground reality.”
Additional problems arise with regard to ministries like road and transport or post and telegraph. “ They are the ones who are most resistant to gender budgeting,” says Mishra pointing to the fact that indivisible outputs complicate the issue of allocation on the basis of gender.
Apart from the need to increase funding directed at women-specific programmes and schemes, Mishra also maintains that policies must represent the specific deprivations and disadvantages that women face at the grassroots level, and must also consider women in an intersectional framework – accounting for the fact that some women are more marginalized than others based on factors like caste, religion or ability. “Gender budgeting has to stop being an exercise on paper and begin being an exercise that means something to the women of India,” she says.