Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced on Saturday that a task force will be appointed to examine the issue about the age of girls entering motherhood, as she asserted that the government will keep its focus on the welfare of women and children, besides the disadvantaged communities.
She announced a Rs 35,600-crore outlay for nutrition-related programmes for 2020-21 and an amount of Rs 28,600 crore was allocated for programmes specific to women, an official statement said. The budget fixed Rs 85,000 crore for the welfare of scheduled castes and other backward classes (OBCs), and Rs 53,700 crore for scheduled tribes in the next fiscal.
Noting that more and more opportunities were opening up for women to pursue higher education and career, Sitharaman said the entire issue about the age of a girl entering motherhood needed to be seen in a new light and proposed to appoint a task force for the purpose. It would present its recommendations in six months' time, she added.
Sitharaman said the government's "Beti Bachao Beti Padhao" scheme had yielded "tremendous" results with the gross enrolment ratio of girls across all levels of education now being higher than boys. At the elementary level, it was 94.32 per cent against the 89.28 per cent for boys, and similar trends were also observed at the secondary and higher secondary levels, she said.
The budget proposed to provide Rs 35,600 crore for nutrition-related programmes for 2020-21. Speaking about the "Poshan Abhiyan" (nutrition scheme) that was launched in 2017-18 to improve the nutritional status of children (0-6 years), adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers, the finance minister said more than six lakh anganwadi workers were equipped with smartphones to upload the nutritional status of over 10 crore households, which was an "unprecedented development".
Addressing the issue of manual scavenging, Sitharaman said the government was determined to eradicate the practice of manual cleaning of sewer systems or septic tanks. The Union budget allocated Rs 10,103.57 crore to the social justice and empowerment ministry for 2020-21 as against the Rs 8,885 crore given to it in 2019-20.
The initial expenditure proposal for the ministry was Rs 10,070 crore for the ongoing fiscal, before being revised downward to Rs 8,885 crore.
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