Social sector spending raised by 22 per cent to Rs 1,37,674 crore, school education outlay also raised; increase in allocations too little, says Opposition.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee went all out to woo the United Progressive Alliance’s core vote bank, the aam aadmi, in his Budget 2010-11 speech on Friday.
He increased government spending on social sector programmes by 22 per cent to Rs 1,37,674 crore, or about 37 per cent of the total planned outlay of Budget 2010-11.
Another 25 per cent of the total expenditure will go towards creating rural infrastructure such as roads and electrification.
“With growth and the opportunities that it generates, we hope to further strengthen the process of inclusive development,” Mukherjee said.
Flagship schemes in education and rural development got the lion’s share, keeping in line with the United Progressive Alliance’s continued focus on the social sector.
A total of Rs 66,100 crore has been allocated for rural development schemes.
“For the UPA government, development of rural infrastructure remains a high priority area,” Mukherjee said in Parliament on Friday, quoting Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Just as the universe is contained in the self, so is India contained in the villages’.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has been allocated Rs 40,100 crore.
“The scheme has completed four years of implementation during which it has been extended to all districts covering more than 4.5 crore households,” Mukherjee said.
Bharat Nirman, which has substantially improved rural infrastructure, was allocated Rs 48,000 crore.
Plan allocation for school education increased from Rs 26,800 crore to Rs 31,036 crore.
States will have access to an additional Rs 3,675 crore for elementary education under the Thirteenth Finance Commission grants for 2010.
The finance minister stepped up the plan for women and child development by 50 per cent to Rs 11,000 crore.
“Several new initiatives that were launched in 2009-10 are now ready for implementation,” he said.
The outlay for the ministry of social justice and empowerment has also gone up from Rs 2,500 to Rs.4,500 crore.
The finance minister also increased the plan allocation for health and family welfare from Rs 19,534 crore to Rs 22,300 crore.
Spending on urban development has also been stepped up. The sector has been allocated Rs 5,400 crore, an increase of more than 75 per cent. In addition, the allocation for housing and urban poverty alleviation was raised from Rs 850 crore to Rs 1,000 crore.
Senior leader and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said the budget was development-oriented, furthering inclusive growth.
However, educationist Madhav Chavan felt the increase was minimal.
“The two percent education cess has contributed Rs 2,500 crore more this year. In elementary education the budget has increased roughly by Rs 4,000 crore. But majority of the money has come from the citizens. The finance minister has contributed just Rs 1,500 crore,” said Chavan, founder and director of Pratham, an organisation working for universalisation of elementary education in India.
Others felt that an increase in funding was good news. But more needs to be done to improve implementation and accountability of social sector programmes, they said.
“The focus needs to shift on how we are spending the money. If we do not focus on administrative reforms, it is unlikely that increased spending will have any impact,” said Yamini Aiyer, director of accountability initiative at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi.
Opposition parties said the budget was inadequate.
“The BJP feels the finance minister, instead of concentrating on a few priority areas in the budget like agriculture, rural development, health and education has spread his resources too thinly. Impact of the increased budgetary allocations will necessarily be limited and these sectors will continue to suffer,” said Yashwant Sinha, senior BJP leader and former finance minister.
The CPI-M too flayed the budget.
“On elementary education the paltry increase of Rs 5,000 crore falls far short of the requirement of universalising the right to education. The plan outlays for agriculture, irrigation and rural development show stagnation in real terms, reflecting the government’s waning commitment towards the rural population,” the party said in a press release.