Home >politics >policy >Budget 2016| Mixed bag for women

New Delhi: Taking tiny steps towards integrating women in India’s growth story, the government proposed to increase spending on women-specific schemes across ministries by 55% in 2016-17. But the allocation to the ministry of women and child development, the nodal agency for women, has barely budged.

The funds directed to women-only schemes in various ministries of the government together have increased from 11,388.41 crore in 2015-16 to 17,412.01 crore in 2016-17.

The government had cut down its expenditure by 5,000 crore from what it had planned for women-specific schemes last year. (The estimate for 2015-16 was 16,657.11 crore, which was later revised to 11,388.41 crore).

“Plan allocations have given special emphasis to sectors like agriculture, irrigation, social sector including health, women and child development..." finance minister Arun Jaitley said in his budget speech.

Allocation to schemes such as the National Mission for Empowerment of Women, aimed at social and economic empowerment of women, has been doubled, while the Nirbhaya schemes, which include women’s helplines and one-stop crisis centres, have also seen an additional allocation of 470 crore.

Allocation for Women Training Programmes for women police officers increased from 12 lakh in 2015-16 to 16 crore this year. However, there are some schemes which haven’t received adequate or any attention at all.

“While some schemes have seen improvement in allocation, which is commendable, it is a matter of concern that several others like the one for the protection of domestic violence victims has not seen any allocation," said Yamini Mishra, gender-responsive budget specialist for the Asia-Pacific, UN Women.

In response to India’s gender challenges, the government adopted gender-responsive budgeting in 2005 which details out the schemes in which 100% provision is for women (Part A) and schemes where the allocations for women constitute at least 30% of the provision (Part B).

The overall budget for women is generally calculated as a combination of Part A and Part B, which in Monday’s budget stands at 90,624.76 crore in 2016-17 as against 81,249.12 crore in 2015-2016.

However, there is no way to find how much money is actually allocated to women in Part B of the gender budget.

The government was criticized in the last budget for slashing the money allocated to the social sector, especially women, following which it added certain supplementary funds.

But the allocation for the ministry of women and child development is almost the same as what it was in 2015-16, drawing criticism from activists yet again.

The ministry, which received 17,352 crore in 2015-16 (according to the revised estimate) has been allocated 17,408 crore in 2016-17—an increase of 56 crore.

“The Modi government only pays lip service to the welfare of mothers and the girl child while the trend to cut actual spending continues," said Jagmati Sangwan, general secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, a left-oriented women’s rights group.

The budget also announced 2,000 crore for liquefied petroleum gas connections in the name of women in rural households and allocation of 500 crore for scheduled caste/scheduled tribe and women entrepreneurs under the Stand Up India scheme.

However, the Priyadarshini scheme for women entrepreneurs, which was given 7.8 crore last year, has not been allocated any money in Monday’s budget.

“There are still no programmes for adolescent girls, or for the skill enhancement of women. Women are only perceived as mothers or housekeepers and schemes for mothers receive huge allocation. What support service do we have for working women?" said Vibhuti Patel, a professor who teaches women’s rights at SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai.

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