Nirmala Sitharaman has earmarked more money to women-specific schemes in the Budget, the first by a full-time woman finance minister.
The spending declared under the so-called gender Budget has risen to Rs 1.37 trillion for 2019-20 (FY20), up by over a tenth from the Rs 1.22 trillion in 2018-19 (FY19). However, as a share of the total budget, there is actually a marginal decline.
The allocations work out to 4.91 per cent share of the overall budget. This is lower than the 4.99 per cent in FY19 and 5.28 per cent in 2017-18. The average share of such spending was 5 per cent during the past five years. The highest was 5.5 per cent in 2014-15. The share has more than doubled from 2.3 per cent in 2004-05.
The figures were disclosed as part of the gender Budget documents. The gender Budget looks to accurately measure the amount of money spent and its impact across genders. The move is to improve allocations and make it more gender-sensitive. It has been said to help bridge gender inequality and improve women’s welfare.
The spending includes Rs 891.23 crore set aside for the scheme for safety of women (Nirbhaya fund). There is also the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, which accounts for Rs 2,500 crore. It is also enhanced by the inclusion of a scheme on providing liquefied petroleum gas to poor households, which accounts for Rs 2,724 crore. Anganwadi services were one of the schemes which received higher allocation. It got an allocation of Rs 11,702.3 crore. This is a 21.4 per cent increase over the FY19 allocation of Rs 9,637.58 crore.
An interesting part is that a significant share of the allocation comes as part of bigger schemes such as housing and employment, which do not specifically target women. One is rural housing (Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana), which has been included under the gender Budget and accounts for Rs 19,000 crore. There was also an urban version of the same scheme included, which accounts for another Rs 3,537.43 crore. There was also Rs 20,000 crore under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
The allocations come in the midst of poor global rankings for India on gender issues.
India ranks 108 out of 149 countries on the Geneva-based World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2018. It ranks 142 on providing economic participation and opportunity to women. This is despite it having improved on wage inequality in the latest report. It had also improved in tertiary education after having closed the gap in primary and secondary education, according to the report.“However, it continues to rank third-lowest in the world on health and survival, remaining the world’s least-improved country on this sub-index over the past decade. In fact, India actually widens the gender gap on this sub-index this year,” it said.