Union Budget 2019 Expectations: The Bharatiya Janata Party's 48-page election manifesto 2019 mentioned 'women' 37 times, promising everything from safety to financial empowerment. But the Modi 1.0 government's gender budgeting left a lot to be desired. In former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's first budget in 2014, Rs 21,194 crore was allocated to the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD), up only 3.7 per cent over the previous budget. But the government only utilised 87.5 per cent of this amount. Then, in FY16, the budget allocation shrunk by a whopping 51 per cent to Rs 10,382 crore. This was the first time that the actual expenditure by the NDA government on this portfolio exceeded the budget estimates, by 66 per cent at that to Rs 17,249 crore.
The next three Union Budgets saw the allocation grow by 68 per cent, 27 per cent and 32 per cent, respectively. But the government underspent in two of them - by around 3 per cent in FY17 and 8 per cent in FY18 - while the budget allocation of Rs 24,700 crore was exceeded by Rs 58 crore in the last fiscal.
With the country getting its first full-time female finance minister under the Modi 2.0 government, hopes of a more gender-responsive budget have been fanned like never before. The big question now is whether Nirmala Sithatraman can strike one for Indian women in her maiden budget on July 5.
Here's a quick look at what the BJP promised women voters in its election manifesto:
33% reservation in parliament and state assemblies through a constitutional amendmentA bill abolishing practices such as Triple Talaq and Nikah HalalaDrawing up a Uniform Civil Code to protect the rights of all womenBuilding on the 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' programme, ensuring ample financial support and "subsidised education loans" for higher educationA comprehensive 'Women in Workforce' roadmap focussed on dramatically increasing the female workforce participation rate over the next five yearsPromising that 10% of the material to be sourced for government procurement will be from MSMEs employing at least 50% women in their workforceExpanding Ayushman Bharat to include all Anganwadi workers and ASHA workersSanitary pads to all women and girls at just Re 1 along with ensuring easily available reproductive and menstrual health services for all womenAfter making the creche facility mandatory for any establishment with 50 or more employees, the party promised to increase the number of childcare facilities three-fold by 2022More priority for women's security, including a time-bound investigation and trail for rapeA dedicated programme for skill training, the creation of work opportunities and strengthening the social security mechanism for the widows of martyrs Full immunisation coverage for all children and pregnant women by 2022 under Mission Indradhanush.
The Interim Budget in February set aside Rs 29,165 crore for this ministry, a 20 per cent increase over the 2018-2019 financial year. A major chunk of it, over Rs 19,800 crore, will go into the Anganwadi Services Scheme. Anganwadi is a rural mother and child care centre that works towards combating child hunger and malnutrition. The National Nutrition Mission, which strives to reduce the level of stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia and low-birth weight babies and aims to benefit 10 crore people across the country, was allocated Rs 3,400 crore. The next biggest chunk, Rs 2,500 crore, went to the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, a maternity benefit programme - up from Rs 1,200 crore in the previous budget - followed by the Child Protection Services programme, which got 62 per cent higher allocation at Rs 1,500 crore.
Modi's pet project 'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao' got Rs 280 crore compared to Rs 200 crore in the previous budget but the allocation for the Working Women's Hostel scheme increased threefold from Rs 52 crore to Rs 165 crore. The apportioned amounts for Mahila Shakti Kendras, the National Creche Scheme and widows' homes all went up in the Interim Budget.
Earlier this month, the Finance Ministry said that it would not alter the allocations made to ministries and departments in February and would only consider additional allocations towards "unavoidable commitments".
With PTI inputs