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Women welfare in focus for 2024-25 budget

ByRajeev Jayaswal,
Oct 18, 2023 06:58 AM IST

The Modi government has gradually raised the total gender budgeting amount to ₹2.23 lakh crore in the 2023-24 budget estimates (BE) from less than ₹1 lakh crore in BE of 2013-14

New Delhi The Union government, which has started the Budget-making process for 2024-25, is expected to focus on women’s welfare with at least a 30% year-on-year jump in gender budgeting in line with the September 2023 Delhi Declaration under the G20 India presidency, two officials said aware of the development said.

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The Modi government has gradually raised the total gender budgeting amount (the amount for all schemes related to women, across ministries) to 2.23 lakh crore in the 2023-24 budget estimates (BE) from less than 1 lakh crore in BE of 2013-14, they added, requesting anonymity. Pre-Budget meetings to consider revised estimates (RE) for FY24 and BE for the next fiscal (FY25) started on October 10, which will continue till November 14, they said.

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“There are three key reasons for a renewed focus on gender budgeting – inclusion of gender issue in the G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration on September 9, followed by enactment of ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam’ (women’s reservation in Parliament and state assemblies), and mention of this issue by the finance minister in her maiden budget speech on July 5, 2019,” one of the officials said. In her first Budget speech, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that she would like to take the gender budgeting exercise forward, he added.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether this increased focus, in both quantitative and qualitative terms, would be evident in the vote on account that the government is expected to present in lieu of the Union Budget on February 1 next year, with the Union Budget itself being presented in July after the new government is sworn in (national elections are due in early summer 2024). While the precedent was for the government to present a vote on account (VOA) -- which only focuses on the expenditure side -- leaving the actual Budget for the incoming government, that year, in 2019 the government presented a VOA which was much more expansive.

Introduced in 2005-06, gender budgeting largely remained a passive exercise to map expenditures and public service deliveries from a gender perspective, a second official said adding that it actually required a new focus with greater allocations to a major section of the population. In FY06, the BE on this account was 14,379 crore.

According to gender budget statements tabled in Parliament, the budget for 100% women specific programmes (Part A) was 27,248 crore in BE of 2013-14, and 69,886 crore in Part B. The gender budget statement is presented in two parts -- Part A constitutes schemes in which 100% provision is for women and Part B reflects schemes where the allocations for women constitute at least 30% of the provision. Overall the gender budget in FY14 (parts A and B together) was 97,134 crore.

The overall gender budget (parts A and B together) in the current financial year of 2023-24 (BE) is 2,23,219.75 crore. The total amount for 100% women specific programmes (or part A) is 88,044.21 crore, and part B (30% women specific programmes) is estimated at 1,35,175.54 crore. “The BE amount is expected to be revised upward in RE [revised estimates] for 2023-24,” the first official said.

According to Budget documents, the major estimated expenditure heads (BE FY24) in part A include Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana - rural ( 54,487 crore ), Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme ( 2,027 crore), DISHA Programme for women in science ( 131 crore) and 4,031 crore allocated to the Ministry of Women and Child Development for schemes such as Nirbhaya fund Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan. Some key provisions in part B include Krishonnati Yojna ( 2,120 crore), Samagra Shiksha ( 11,236 crore), PM Poshan ( 5,800 crore), higher education ( 14,625 crore), Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin ( 2,280 crore), Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme or MGNREGA ( 25,000 crore), and various programmes under the Ministry of Women and Child Development ( 16,025 crore).

Commenting on the matter, two other government functionaries, not wishing to be named, said the government has made a concerted effort to encourage women entrepreneurs through self-help groups with easy credit from formal lending institutions and increased women’s participation would also help in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) goals.

Women have started participating in large numbers in sectors such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) due to conducive environment and policy incentives, one of them said. The other functionary said that more such efforts are on the card.

“In addition to access to education and health care, the issue of their economic independence has been underscored at high-level meetings, and the Prime Minister has given top priority to creating opportunities for women. It is therefore, necessary to revisit some of the existing schemes to ensure a larger portion of the monies can be earmarked for women’s empowerment,” the second functionary added.

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