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Gender, Social Inclusion And Interim Union Budget 2024-25 – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute

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Gender, Social Inclusion and Interim Union Budget 2024-25

Press Release

Yashica

The IMPRI Center for the Study of Finance and Economics (CSFE),  IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, hosted an interactive panel discussion on the topic “Gender, Social Inclusion and Interim Union Budget 2024-25” on 2 February 2024, under the IMPRI 4th Annual Series of Thematic Deliberations and Analysis of Union Budget 2024-25, as part of IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk. 

The discussion was chaired and moderated by Prof Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Distinguished Professor at IMPRI. To begin with, Prof Vibhuti gave a holistic view of the budget. This year’s budget has seen an increase in capital expenditure as seen in the previous interim budget too, with less focus on the social sector. According to the Professor, this year’s budget saw a reduction in social welfare schemes such as Poshan Abhiyaan, National Education Scheme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) or National Social Assistance Program (NSAP).

She mentioned four areas that are of concern to gender and social sector in the current times, these are – youth and unemployment, low work participation rate of women, food inflation and the agrarian distress. She pointed out that gender commitments don’t get translated into financial commitments in this neo liberal economy. 

As per the data presented by Professor Vibhuti of the International Labour Organisation’s ‘World Social Protection Report’, only 25 per cent of Indians are covered by one social security scheme. Countries which are poorer in Asia Pacific region have around 44 percent population covered under the social security schemes. She additionally pointed out India’s stagnant Human Development Index (HDI) rank.

In this light, Dr Paramita Majumdar, Independent Consultant took the discussion forward by analysing the profile of gender-responsive budgeting in India since 2005 and her views on the current Interim Budget. She emphasised the collective working of the planning, finance and social development departments of the Government of India to ensure that gender-responsive budgeting is a success. Since 2005 gender budgeting has improved in India with statements, advisories, audits being submitted by various ministries. Institutionalising gender budgeting has also been a positive step. However, a focus on allocation and implementation, training and research is required.

This was followed by opening remarks by Prof N. Manimekalai, Founder and Director, of the Department of Women’s Studies. As an economist with specialisation in women’s study, she focused on the macroeconomic framework that has influenced the 2024-25 interim budget. She elaborated on her research in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. As per her view, the women and child development sector has seen a slight increase in its budget, on the other hand, there has been a decline of 7 per cent for the ministry of education and a stagnant budget for rural development. 

 She critically reflected on the schemes on nutrition, education, unemployment, housing and occupational diversification, self employment scheme and adhocism of the schemes which are announced but they are not implemented. She also brought into consideration the question of the precarity of the workers in the economy sector.

 At a subnational level, she discussed seven best practices in the area of education, mobility, free bus, reproductive health issues, the gender action plan, and direct strengthening of self help groups by the state rather than leaving them to the micro financing institutions.

 Taking the discussion forward, Dr. Neha Shah, Associate Professor, LJ University addressed the equity and justice concerns with the budget. She elaborated on the challenges faced by 40% of Indian youth facing unemployment, extremely low work participation of women, and erosion of the survival base of rural and tribal people in the informal sector. 

Dr Shah expressed her concerns about the difference in the actual allocation of the budget to that of the reduced expenditure in areas of education, health, and welfare schemes for SCs and STs. Other concerns include privatisation of education, low skill set among youth and low labour participation of women. Focus on education, quality care economy, old age system, and implementation of benefits like maternity leave should be the areas that need to be reflected in our budget. 

The next panellist, Dr Sanghamitra Dhar, Coordinator/Programme Lead -Gender Responsive Budgeting, UN Women India. She reflected on the role of UN Women in making the budget at the national and sub-national levels gender-responsive. She also elaborated on the difference between gender-responsive and gender-transformative budgets. UN Women provides technical assistance at the budgetary level. It is the strategic partner of the nodal ministry (Women and Child Development). As per her, it’s encouraging to see 38 ministries reporting for GBS this time. Improvements have taken place with transgender added to GBS in states like Maharashtra.

The next speaker, Maya Awathy, a Trans Activist provided an on ground perspective. As per her, a gender-neutral budget is the need of the hour. She brought forth the trend of decline in the utilisation of budget when it comes to the transgender community. She gave an example of the SMILE (Support for Marginalised Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise) scheme and a difference seen in the budget allocated and actually spent. Financial allocation and effective policy implementation should be the focus area of the government. 

Following the discussion on the budget, Shri Shailesh Mishra, Founder President, Silver Innings Group elaborated on an elderly-inclusive and elderly-friendly budget. Senior citizens have been constantly neglected when it comes to the budget. According to him, 90 percent of old people do not have any social security.’Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ should also include the elderly within its spectrum. Not just budget formation but also policy formulation and actual implementation of the budget is necessary. Hello emphasised the need for age equality.

Lastly, the youngest panellist, Ms Deepa Pawar, Managing Trustee & Founder Director, Anubhuti reflected on the situation of the SCs and STs with respect to budgeting. She emphasised the need for Sensus, actual utilisation of budget, an inclusive character of budget and budgetary literacy as essential.

After a Q&A session, the program concluded with closing remarks by Prof Vibhuti Patel, who thanked and praised the IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute team for hosting a successful panel discussion and ensuring the smooth functioning of the event. 

IMPRI’s 4th Annual Series of Thematic Deliberations and Analysis of Interim Union Budget 2024-25

Watch the event at IMPRI #Web Policy Talk

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