A delegation of women, which called on Finance Minister P Chidambaram, expressed concern that existing women-related schemes were being used by most ministries to make claims of gender budgeting.
In their pre-Budget consultations with Finance Minister P Chidambaram, they said that money earmarked for schemes like Indira Awas Yojana or the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), which have been in operation for several years now, are being projected as part of gender budgeting. "The existing schemes are being portrayed as part of gender budgeting by the concerned ministries," said Annie Raja, a delegation member.
Rajya Sabha MP Brinda Karat cited examples how the figures for gender budgeting were being inflated to suggest that more was being done for women than was actually the fact.
She pointed out that 95% of the outlay of the Social Justice and Empowerment ministry has been included in the gender budget statement of the ministry. The entire ICDS allocation is also similarly included whereas it is primarily for children, both boys and girls. Likewise, social marketing of contraceptives was also being put in the category of gender budgeting.
The delegation, which included Subhashini Ali, Ashalata, Jyotsna Chattterjee, Indrani Mazumdar, Bulu Sareen and Kalpana Francis said that the 5.2% allocation for women in the last budget was 'highly exaggerated' as a large portion of the funds do not directly benefit women. The minister assured that he would look into the issue. Chidambaram assured the delegation—which also that he would look into the issue.
The delegation, which had sought the meeting with the minister, expressed concern over rising prices of food items. It demanded correctives like expanding the public distribution system to include 2 crore Antodaya card holders comprising women headed households, widows and destitutes.
Calling for more funds, projects and measures for improving the lot of women, the delegation wanted the government to: include pulses in the list of subsidized items, rectify BPL (below poverty line) calculation, expand the rural job guarantee scheme to another 200 districts, institutionalise ICDS, give social security to women workers in the unorganized sector, allow more credit at 4% to self help groups and hike pensions for widow.
"Acute distress in the rural areas must be addressed. The farm sector must be given more credit, rural infrastructure spending must be increased and remunerative support prices guaranteed," demanded the delegation demanded.
It also called for a sub-plan for the muslim minority and said that all sub-plans for the most deprived must give priority to the women of these communities. They also urged the minister to hold pre-Budget consultations with other women’s organizations.