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A budget that focuses on happiness, not GDP

business Updated: Nov 03, 2009 23:55 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
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The finance minister has slashed the defence budget by 60 per cent, increased to three per cent allocation for health and nutrition and — last but not least — made a total shift from economic index to a wellness and happiness index.

Is this utopia? Sorry to disappoint, it’s not Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s budget. This was presented at the First Women’s Parliament on Tuesday.

With political parties sitting on the women’s reservation bill for decades, women’s groups in the country have initiated the exercise to create “alternate space for an alternate vision”.

The provisions give a clear indication of what budgeting with a feminine touch can do and what would be the priorities if women have their way.

Thus the budget trashes the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) as “inadequate” and harps on Gross National Happiness (GNH).

Other salient features are special cells to meet housing needs in cities and night shelters; women-specific schemes and programmes and not permitting “profit motive agencies” to manipulate the connecting sector – which will connect the hearts and minds of people towards peace, social justice and harmony.

“Ek sapna dekha hai… mahilon kaa sansad ho (We have a dream … there should be a women’s parliament). This is part of the studies/research towards it,” said Sushila Lakra from Chhattisgarh’s Raigarh.

The First Women’s Parliament, being held at National Cooperative Union of India Auditorium, August Kranti Marg , is an effort at that.

With a markedly different approach towards serious issues, the forum sought to bring forth their views through a replication of the parliamentary process, replete with ruling and opposition parties, zero hour, question hour, presentation of various bills and the budget speech.

“The aim is to create leaders, build their capacities to enhance political participation, to create an alternate political space for discussing issues with gender perspective and preparing a roster of capable women,” said Ruth Manorama, NAWO (National Alliance of Women) president, who organised the event.

“We have categorised account heads in different way. These heads show our policy thrust,” said Dr Neelavalli (who goes by a single name), the ‘finance minister’ in the team.