Saturday, March 17, 2012

Translate Gender Commitments into Budgetary Commitments:  Gender Audit of Union Budget 2012-13

Dr. Vibhuti Patel, Director, PGSR, SNDT Women’s University,

In order to guarantee that gender commitments are converted into financial commitments and gender mainstreaming of policy, programme and schemes; the government of India introduced gender budgeting in 2004. In the Union Budget 2012-13, Ministry of Women and Child Development has been allocated Rs.18500 crore (2012-13 BE), an increase of 15 % at current prices as compared to previous year’s Revised Estimate of Rs.16100 crore (2011-12). The total magnitude of the Gender Budget (outlays earmarked for women) has declined from 6.1 percent (2010-11 Budget Estimate) to 5.8 percent (2011-12 Revised Estimate). Further, there is a marginal increase of 0.1 percent in 2012-13 over the previous year. The coverage of ‘Gender Budgeting Statement’ in terms of the number of Union Government ministries/departments reporting in the Gender Budgeting Statement has remained stagnant at 33 for the sixth consecutive year. Except for the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, there is no new addition. For past five years the women’s groups have been demanding review of the format of the Gender Budgeting Statement. But no progress has been made in this direction. Moreover, the current budget has not answered long standing demands of women’s groups and gender economists with respect to budgetary allocation for:

• implementation of Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques (PCPNDT) Act. to halt declining child sex ratio by judicious implementation of PCPNDT Act, 2002
• implementation of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
• complete utilization of 30% girls’ component within Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and special budgetary allocation for public education and increased publicity drive in print and audio visual media.
• salaries of crèche teacher and helper in the schools. In all schools, one room should be converted into crèche so that poor girls with younger siblings to look after can leave them in the crèche and attend the classes
 • enhanced budgetary allocation for Public distribution System (PDS) strengthened with good quality of food grains, oil and soap to ensure better nutritional standards
 • protection and rehabilitation of child workers and children in difficult circumstances such as street children, trafficked children.
• Social security and social protection for women in the informal sector, Small Scale Industries, FTZs, EPZs, SEZs Construction workers, rag pickers, scavengers, food-processing industries, sweat shops and garment industry must be ensured social security. Budgetary allocation for implementation of Unorganised Sector Social Security and Social Protection Act, 2008 is imperative.
 • For Vocational Training Institutions for women to impart them skills in non-conventional areas
 • increasing access to information, finance, training and marketing for women entrepreneurs, SHGs, vendors and self employed women. Women entrepreneurs and traders must be given priority while allotting of shops by public sector and local government
 • providing Crèche facilities, working women’s hostels and short stay homes
 • Constructing night shelters with toilets and baths for homeless women and girls with the help of centrally sponsored schemes as well as state financial allocation.
 • Community based half way homes, working women’s hostels and multi-purpose activity centres to meet variety of needs of women and girls. Half way homes and counseling centres must be created to address problems faced by elderly Women and women who are physically challenged.
• supporting women headed households (FHHs) managed by widows, deserted, divorced and single in the area of education, health, housing and skill development.
• generate Gender Disaggregated Data to address strategic gender needs and practical gender needs of women in Mumbai.
• Affirmative action to protect interests of women in difficult circumstances such as child prostitutes, homeless women, street girls, abducted girls, child brides, women suffering from HIV/AIDS, single women and elderly women.
• Safe transport in terms of special buses and local trains for women
• Well maintained Public toilets for women

 The Steering Committee on Women’s Agency and Empowerment for the 12th Plan had suggested several important interventions to address the gender based disadvantages confronting girls and young as well as elderly women. The Ministry of Women and Child Development has launched helpline for women, development of distance learning programme on women’s rights, implementation of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, relief to and rehabilitation of rape victims but the amount allocated for these schemes is grossly inadequate. There is no financial allocation for Swayamsidha Phase II for self employed women and women entrepreneurs that was considered by the 11th Plan as the main agency for women’s empowerment. For most of the existing schemes, the outlays are extremely low as compared to those proposed by the Steering Committee on Women’s Agency and Empowerment for the 12th Plan. Allocations for schemes such as STEP, Hostels for Working Women and Priyadarshini have registered a marginal increase over the previous year in spite of year 2012-13 being the first year of 12th Five Year Plan.

 Most of the government flagship schemes continue to rely on underpaid labour of women. In the Budget 2012-13 also, while the role of ASHAs – the backbone of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) has been enlarged further, there is no mention by the Finance Minister to regularize their services. ASHAs will continue to get performance based remuneration and targets they are able to fulfill.

 The only saving grace in this budget is efforts by the Department of Science and Technology, traditionally perceived as male bastion. DST has launched several missions exclusively targeting women in order to promote women’s participation in scientific and technical fields, to promote women’s empowerment and to enhance women’s capabilities and choices. The new scheme of DST, ‘Disha’ in the Union budget 2012-13 is envisaged to facilitate the mobility of women scientists.There is an urgent need to replicate such efforts by other ministries based on practical ad strategic gender needs of girls and women.

Considering the large numbers of women in unpaid work and women’s central role to the care economy; adequate resource allocations need to be made to support women’s care roles. In the absence of sex disaggregated data, evaluation of schemes through a gender lens or any effort at strengthening gender dimensions of existing schemes poses a big question. So, provision of such data should be prioritized. In the light of the present agrarian crisis and the changing face of agriculture being highly gendered, the vulnerability of women farmers in particular needs attention in the larger context of food security.

Considering the huge gender disparities in land ownership patterns, women’s access to land needs to be strengthened immediately. This could be done by (a) improving women’s claims to family land (by enhancing legal awareness on inheritance laws, provide legal support services, etc.); (b) improving access to public land by ensuring that all land transfers for poverty alleviation, resettlement schemes, etc., recognize women’s claims; (c) Improving women’s access to land via market through provision of subsidized credit to poor, by encouraging group formation for land purchase or lease by poor women, etc.

Women’s rights organizations in India have demanded that the Government should ensure adequate gender budgeting in all ministries and departments, enact a comprehensive Food Security Bill, ensure universal PDS as a core component, allocate 6% of GDP for Health, allocate 6% of GDP for education, make budgetary allocation to cover special schemes for women workers, increase allocation for women farmers, enhance resource allocation for tribal, dalit, and minority women and increase budgetary support for schemes to assist women-headed households and differently abled women. The target of 30% gender allocations under all ministries has not yet been achieved. This must be implemented immediately. There is need for gender audit and gender outcome appraisal of all ministries and departments at the central and state levels. Very often, resource allocations made under gender budgeting do not reach in time and they remain unspent. There should be proper monitoring and supervision of the allocated funds with greater transparency and accountability at all levels.