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The Union Budget 2022-23 from Social Sector Perspective – IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

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The Union Budget 2022-23 from Social Sector Perspective - IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

Vibhuti Patel

Macroeconomic Considerations in the Union Budgets The context setting is important to understand the implications of the Union Budget 2022-23 on the social sector of India. India ranked 131st out of 189 counties in the  Human Development Index. The spending on social protection (excluding health) in India is 1.4% of the GDP, while the average for low-middle income countries has been 2.5% as per the World Social Protection Report, 2021 of the International Labour Organisation. As per the Oxfam Report 2021, ‘Inequality Kills’ 84% of the Indian households reported reduced incomes, while the wealth of the 142 billionaires doubled in pandemic times. 

As per The Periodic Labour Force Survey, 2020  68% of people earn less than 12,000 per month. The State of Working in India Report, 2019 by the Centre for Sustainable Employment of the Azim Premji University in India, 82% male and 92% female workers earn less than ₹10,000 per month and the country has the highest rate of unemployment in 20 years. Global Hunger Report, 2021 stated that India is a middle income country with widespread hunger, and India ranked 101st out of 116 countries in the Global Hunger Index.

In the ranking of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Report, 2021 India ranked 121st out of 169 countries. Overall, India scored low on SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 5 (Gender Equality), SDG-4 (Quality Education), and SDG 10 (Reduced Inequality). Over the last two years, the coronavirus pandemic triggered complete or practical lockdowns have resulted in unsurmountable human miseries marked by lower real wages and mounting unemployment, increasing malnutrition, child marriages,

child labor, gender-based violence, and an adverse impact on education, health, food security for the working class, poor, farmers, persons with disabilities, transgender community and front line workers. In this socio-economic context, the topmost priority is the fiscal expansion for fund allocation for the social sector that contributes to human development by improving food security, nutrition, health outcomes, access to education, and employment opportunities

The Highlights of the Union Budget 2022-23

The Union budget 2022-23 has followed supply-side economics to promote state capitalism and subsidize the private sector by increasing capital expenditure by 35.4%, from Rs 5.54 lakh crore to Rs 7.50 lakh crore, and effective CAPEX seen at Rs 10.7 lakh crore for the financial year. The budget has increased revenue expenditure by only of 1%. The Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) ECLGS cover expanded by Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh crore.

The top focus of the budget this year are PM Gati Shakti, Inclusive Development, Productivity Enhancement, Sunrise Opportunities, Energy Transition, Climate Action, Financing of investments. Productivity-linked incentive schemes in 14 sectors have received investment intentions worth Rs 30 lakh crore.

With the least budgetary allocation to the social sector in the Union Budget 2022-23, the efforts have been made by the Union Budget to reduce the fiscal deficit at the cost of the social sector. This has struck a death blow to the livelihood based of the marginalized including women. 

Face. The Unemployment crisis in which 6 million jobs have been lost as the Indian economy contracted by 7.3% while the global average is only 3.1 %  in 2020.

The informal sector that contributed to 35% output, 45% export, and 92 % employment has been left without any financial allocations by the Union budget 2022-23. The projected economic growth of 9% is envisaged as capital intensive with the accent on digital economy and fintech, tech-enabled development, energy transition, e-commerce, artificial intelligence, drone technology, robotics and massive automation. Thus it will continue to be jobless growth.

In this pandemic induced economic downturn, the economic inequality  gets compounded for all those who are facing intersectional marginalities along the lines of caste, religion, region and gender.” Even among the poor, Women, transgender communities, persons with disabilities who are at the bottom of pyramid of poverty and deprivation. COVID relief package of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) has not been extended beyond March 2022. How will Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, National Tele Mental Health the majority of people who have no access to digital technology?

Health and Nutrition Concerns

Given the unprecedented human calamity that the country faced during the first three waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, and highly inadequate budgetary allocation for health facilities to protect the lives of people becomes devastating as from the pre-COVID days also the public health system was under-resourced. 

It was anticipated that the Union government would allocate a significantly higher health budget for 2022-23 as per the WHO directive, but the fund allocations to health and related programs were reduced in real terms in the budget 2022-23. As a percent of GDP, Union government allocation to health has declined from 0.382% to 0.346% between 2021-22 RE and 2022-23 BE. 

The share of health in the total budget has declined from 2.35% to 2.26% compared to the previous year. This is grossly inadequate, especially in light of the COVID pandemic  Health Budget as a percentage of the total budget –  2.26 percent only which is lower than the previous year’s health expenditure of 2.46% of total expenditure in 2020-21.

The government expenditure on health as a percentage of GDP is only  0.35 percent while the  WHO has recommended that  5 percent of the GDP must be allocated to public health by the nation-states. The Union budget on health has also ignored the National Health Policy (NHP) 2017 that had promised 2.5 percent of GDP by 2025.

Link: https://www.business-standard.com/budget/article/budget-2022-despite-covid-pandemic-health-no-longer-the-highlight-122020200049_1.html. Accessed on 2-2-2022

There is huge shortfalls in human resources in the Indian public health system. As per WHO for every 1000 population there should be 1 doctor, while in India, as per National Health Profile 2020, for 9702 persons there is 1 government doctor. Similarly, the shortfall of obstetricians and gynecologists is of  75% surgeons is of 86 %, physicians of 87% and pediatricians (79.9%).

As per Rural Health Statistics, at the Community Health Centers, there was a shortfall of 82% of medical specialists in India. Shortfalls in the public health infrastructure is deplorable in India. As per WHO standards for 1000 population, there must be 5 hospital beds,  India has 1 hospital bed per 1666 persons. This leaves an enormous opportunity for rant-seeking behavior in the health system and reckless commercialization of health care services provided by the uncontrolled private sectors.

Profit-oriented private health care providers have minted money during the pandemic by fleecing the patients who had to sell their land, house and other assets to pat the medical bills. The commodification of health care also prevented access to health care to the poverty groups in general and women, girls, LGBTQI persons, Dalit, tribal, and minority groups in particular.

The pregnant women and women in labor pain from the marginalized sections have faced a lack of primary gynecological care as well as obstetric violence faced by women while the upper-class women are targeted for unnecessary medicalization.

The Union Budget has allocated food subsidy allocation of Rs 2.06 lakh crore and Rs. 20, 263 crores for the Schemes for supplementary nutrition-  SAKSHAM Anganwadi. Scheme for maternity allowance is incorporated under SAMARTHYA that is allocated Rs. 2622 crores in the budget.

As compared to the previous year’s budget, there is a reduction in real cost as the inflation rate has gone up during this period. Moreover, the financial allocation for Mid-Day meals in schools reduced from 11,500 crores in the previous year to 10,234 crores in the current year and is renamed as Prime Minister Poshan Shakti Nirman.

As per NFHS 5, during 2019-2021, more than half of women and girls are suffering from iron deficiency anemia, child and adolescent malnutrition has increased. In this context, the fund allocation for food and nutrition is grossly inadequate. There is no clarity about what services will be provided by 1.5 lakh health and wellness care centers by promised by the Union Budget 2022-23. 

PM-JAY in lockdown period did not include sexual and reproductive health services as essential services which resulted in declines in admissions for child delivery by 26 %. Women-headed households are not included in the PM JAY as the focus in on the households, not individuals. In intrahousehold access to health insurance, there are more beneficiaries among men, young adults or the middle-aged, while the younger population (below 20) and older population (over 60)are left out.  

Education 

According to the Economic Survey 2020-21, the expenditure on education by the union government as a proportion of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been around 3% between 2014-15 to 2018-19. The National Education Policy (NEP), 1968 recommended the spending on education to be 6% of the GDP. NEP 2020 has reaffirmed this recommendation.

Indian education sector’s budget wishlist – Subsidised access to laptops and smartphones, focus on edtech

Source: https://www.businessinsider.in/budget/news/union-budget-2022-allocation-for-the-education-sector-in-india/articleshow/89176456.cms. Accessed on 1-2-2022

In Education, most of the union budgetary allocation is going towards creating a digitalization,  ‘one class, one TV channel’ initiative. The scholarship for higher education for SCs has declined from Rs 450 crore to Rs 364 crore,  The pre-matric scholarships for SCs and others have declined from Rs 725 crore to Rs 500 crore. There has been an overall increase in allocation for the education sector but emphasized on digital classrooms but no budget for increasing the employment of teachers.

Livelihoods and Employment in Rural Areas

Allocation for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme (MGNRGS) that addresses the issue of immediate need of cash was not even mentioned by the Finance Minister in her speech. Currently, states after states have reported that the allocation of MNREGS is not able to give 100 days employment to the rural poor as mentioned in the ACT.

In several states the allocation of the last year enabled the state governments to give. Reduction in the MGNAREGS will have a devastating impact on the rural poor. There is no comprehensive urban employment scheme provided by the union budget to address a burning problem of 40 % youth unemployment in our country.

The budget has mentioned start-ups and development of rural enterprises Rural employment and use of drone technology in the rural areas but is silent about support services for the farmers.  The budget is silent about rural and tribal women’s unpaid work of collection of fuel, fodder, water, animal care, kitchen gardening, collection of forest, and huge care burden of children, elderly and sick family members shouldered by women of the households. 

Except for extending the Ujjwala scheme for one lakh users which is grossly inadequate in its coverage, and no support to ease the unpaid care by providing supportive social services. State-run housing at affordable rent for migrant workers must be given top priority by the state after the painful experience of reverse migration and circular migration during the pandemic.

Fund Allocation under the Special Component Plan (SCP) and the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP):

under Statement 10A and Statement 10B respectively the Union Government allocates an additional budget, under the SCP, for the Scheduled Castes and under TSP for the Scheduled Tribes. In the Union Budget 2022-23 there has been an increase in the absolute number of SCP and TSP but it amounts to only 3.61% for SCP and 2.26% for TSP of the entire budget of the union government.

It mentions two schemes related to Safai Karam Charis,  “Scheme for Self-Employment and Rehabilitation” for which during the year 2020-21, only 16.6 crores were spent out of total allocation of Rs 110 crore for their rehabilitation under the self-employment scheme, out of which only Rs 16.60 crore was spent. The Union budget 2021-22 allocated Rs 100 crores, which was slashed to Rs 43.3 crore in the revised budget.

The 2022-23 budget has allocated only Rs 70 crore for the sanitation workers who have suffered the most during the last 2 years of pandemics. As there are no clearcut earmarking of funds under specific budget heads, by the nodal Ministry, i.e. Social Justice and Empowerment which has not uploaded its Detailed Demand for Grants (DDG) on its website from the year 2019-20 onwards; it is feared that the old saga of unutilized funds will be repeated during the current year also.

The Union budget has extended the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) extended to March 2023 and has promised total cover up to Rs 5L crore, but does not provide an infrastructure for marketing for their products.  Dalit women mostly in the nano and micro enterprises and been self-employment Dalit women had to face severe hardships,

were forced to shut down their units permanently, and are currently surviving by casual wage work are not included in the budget announcements for financial support to 130 Lakh MSME to be benefitted as per budget announcements. Capital intensive infrastructure and construction industries have been granted a major boost by the Union Budget but they will not generate more employment. Hence the large majority of the workforce will have to languish in the low-wage unregulated informal sector marked by casual work and hazardous work conditions.

Budget for the Religious Minorities

The allocation of a meager 0.23% to the Ministry of Minority Affairs in the Union budget 2022-23 when religious minorities in India constitute 19.3% of the population has generated great disappointment among the minority groups who fell being discriminated against. They have demanded from the Central government to allocate 1 lakh crore, adding, the extremely low allocation comes even as the current budget of Rs 22,04,422 crore, is an increase to the tune of 23% as compared to the last year.

Of this, the budget of the Ministry of Minority Affairs has given only Rs 5,020.50 crore, which is an increase of only 4% over the 2021-22 budget. There has been a reduction of  Rs 8.58 crore in the budget of a special program for minorities, Rs 1 crore reduction in the budget of the Quami Waqf Board Progressive Scheme, Rs 41 crore reduction in the Nai Manzil Scheme, and there a shortfall of Rs 5.50 crore in the leadership development of minority women scheme.

The budgetary allocation for the Maulana Azad Foundation has been virtually abolished and a provision of only Rs 1 lakh has been made for it, there is a reduction of Rs 14 crore in the educational scheme for minorities and madrasas, there is a Rs 41.67 crore shortfall for social security, and a reduction of Rs 41 crore in skill development for the minorities. There is no increase in Interest Subsidy Scheme of Education Loan, Preparation Scheme for Competitive Examination, Scheme for preparation of UPSC and other Competitive Examinations, Research under Special Programme for Minorities, Scheme to Save Cultural Heritage.

Gender Concerns

Women’s rights organizations have found the Union Budget (2022-2023) highly masculine as it completely overlooked the main gender concerns-widening gender gap in the health-wellbeing and nutrition, education, employment, deplorable condition of health care workers such as Anganwadi workers-sanitation workers and

ASHA workers-(Accredited social health activists), Self-employed women in nano-micro enterprises and the pandemic triggered gender-based violence, trafficking of girls and women, forced child marriage due to more than 1 crore girls forced out of the school system, digital divide, and forced child labor. By and large, the mainstream media has bypassed critical reflection on gender responsiveness of the Union Budget 2022-23. The Economic Times has used pictures of women along with articles that has nothing to do with women.  

https://s01.sgp1.cdn.digitaloceanspaces.com/inline/uzirmfxfqq-1612684468.png

Source:https://infogram.com/gender-budget-as-of-gdp-2005-06-to-2021-22-1h0r6rpzkwnkw2e  Accessed on 1-2-2022

While the gender-responsive budget (GRB) has increased in absolute terms in 2022-23, it has shrunk as a percentage of total budget expenditure. A total of Rs 1,71,006.47 crore has been allocated for women-centric schemes under both parts of the gender budget. This is 11% higher than the Rs 1,53,326.28 crore allocated in the budget estimates for 2021-22. However, as a percentage of total expenditure, gender has come down marginally from 4.4% in 2021 to 4.3% this year. In the pre-pandemic budget, gender budgets accounted for 4.72% of total expenditure in 2020 -21.

In India, the gender budget constitutes 5-6% of the total Budget and 1% of the GDP. For the Union budget 2022-23,  the GRB is 0.3% less than the previous years’ budgets were between 0.71 % to 0.66% of the GDP.

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Source: https://infogram.com/proportion-of-gender-budget-for-top-five-ministries-2021-22-1h9j6qg7wo8qv4g. Accessed on 1-2-2022

The state has abandoned its responsibilities of translating gender commitments into financial commitments in a situation where 2 years of pandemics have eroded even the pre-pandemic gains of women, girls, transgender communities, persons with disabilities, and 92% of the workforce that is languishing in the informal sector of the economy.

Pandemic has forced a decline in the labor force participation rate to 20.3% as they faced the disproportionate loss of jobs and as per the The government’s latest Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) shows the unemployment rate for women during the January to March 2021 period was 11.8%  from 10.5% in 2020. As per CMIE -Labour Force shrank by 14% for women versus 1% for men between Dec 2019 and Dec 2020. Currently, The women’s workforce participation rate is at 20.3%  overall and 18.2% in Urban India.

Women’s employability is at 51.44 % for 2022 compared to 41.25% in 2021. An employable available talent pool of women is estimated to be 9.2 crore in urban India but only 1.84 Cr women in urban India are currently employed. 

During this yearEmployable and available women talent is likely to surge to 7.4 Cr. Hence there is an urgent need to Need to create better formal sector job opportunities for women. As per the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy,  84% of women’s trips are made using public transport, and the disruption of public transport services and tightened mobility restrictions affected women’s employment. The budget’s preference for capital investment in infrastructure projects would not benefit women workers as compared to males. 

https://s01.sgp1.cdn.digitaloceanspaces.com/inline/seirzorrzo-1612684751.png

Source: https://infogram.com/gender-budget-as-of-total-expenditure-2005-06-to-2021-22-1h0r6rpzkolww2e. Accessed on 1-2-2022

The Mid-day meal scheme remains stagnated. Mission Shakti’ has been allocated a little over ₹ 3,100 crores 2022-23 – a marginal rise of less than ₹ 100 crores from 2021. Subsidies for cooking fuel have been slashed by one-third for the department of biotechnology budget and halved for the budget on LPG for poor households. 

In Part A of the gender budget regarding women-specific schemes with 100% allocation for women, 26,772.89 crores has been allocated for women-centric schemes under Part A. This is a marginal increase of 6% from the previous budget when Rs 25,260.95 crore was allocated.  Two schemes of the Ministry of Rural Development – the ‘Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana’ and the Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme-comprise 82% of Part A.

The allocation of women protection schemes under ‘Sambal’-One Stop Centre, Mahila Police Volunteer, Women Helpline, ‘Swadhar’, ‘Ujjwala’, Widow Homes saw a decline from Rs 587 crore in Budget 2021 this year to Rs 562 crore in the current year. ‘Samarth’, which includes flagship schemes like ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ and ‘Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojna’, saw an increase of over Rs 105 crore from Rs 2,432 crore to Rs 2,547.11 crore last year.

‘Sambal’ and ‘Samarth’ together constitute the umbrella scheme ‘Mission Shakti’, which aims to protect and empower women. A little over Rs 3,100 crore has been allocated to ‘Mission Shakti’ this year – a marginal increase of less than Rs 100 crore from 2021.

Part B covers schemes where at least 30% of the allocation is for women which include schemes with a significant focus on women, which continues to be a major part of gender budget allocation. Rs 1,44,233.58 crore has been allocated for Part B schemes, which is 84% ​​of the total gender budget allocation.

There has been an increase of 12% in the Part B component this year as compared to last year, when Rs 1,28,749.83 crore was earmarked. Two urban schemes – Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) and Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM) – together with get Rs 23,405.06 crore while two rural schemes of the Ministry of Rural Development – National Rural Livelihoods Mission-Aajeevika and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme- Receive Rs 32,668.21 crore. 

Women are a large number of the beneficiaries in the schemes which include MGNREGS, National Social Assistance Programme, and Schemes for Welfare of SC, ST, Minorities, and other vulnerable sections. The combined expenditure on these schemes has been reduced from 3.2% of the revised expenditure of 2021-22 to 2.5% in budget allocation in 2022-2023.

The budget ensures tariff protection to capital goods but is silent about support to women entrepreneurs. The Union budget talks about Nari Shakti for Amrit Kaal and up-gradation of 200000  anganwadis under the Integrated Child Development Scheme but does not promise to ensure living wages to Anganwadi and ASHA works.

A decline in allocations for SAMBAL scheme  – components such as One Stop Centre, Mahila Police Volunteer, Women’s Helpline/ Swadhar/ Ujjawala/ Widow Homes etc) which focus on women’s health and protection takes away support system for the survivors of gender based violence that has escalated exponentially during the pandemic. 

Budget for social security pensions (National Social Assistance Programme) in which  a Union government contribution of Rs 200 per month per pensioner remains at around Rs 9,600 crores

The budget is totally silent on the concerns of social protection, i.e. policies and programs designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability by promoting efficient labour markets, diminishing people’s exposure to risks, and enhancing their capacity to protect themselves against hazards and interruption/loss of income.

The sufferers are and will be poor, informal sector workers, farmers, forest dwellers, sexual minorities, persons with disabilities, and in all these categories women and girls. Cruel fiscal policy levies minimum corporate tax and does not allow fiscal expansion for increasing purchasing power of the masses even after knowing that private investment is unresponsive to tax concession. 

Essential Needs of the Masses:  

Poor homemakers, women in agriculture, women in the rural and urban informal sectors, self-employed women workers, forest dwellers and other deprived sections in the rural areas are reporting that new normal will never by normal for them. The majority of the Indian population is reeling under debt and pawning assets. Women are at the bottom of the poverty pyramid. Health and education costs have shot up exponentially Hence, there is an urgent need for corrective measures in the Union Budget to strengthen the social sector expenditure through fiscal expansion. 

Sky-rocketing inflation in essential goods for day-to-day survival of common masses has put curb on a nutritious diet, education, access to health, clean and safe fuel. Hike in price of gas cylinder and diesel fuels inflationary pressure. Universalization of the Public Distribution System to give subsidized rations to everyone who demands it.

To begin with the quotas under the NFSA can be immediately expanded on the basis of the population projections for 2022 to include all vulnerable persons especially migrant workers, homeless, sex workers, trans people and all vulnerable communities even without ration cards.

Redetermining the state-wise quotas in light of the increase in population since the 2011 census has also been directed by the Supreme Court in the migrant worker’s case. Expansion of the PDS to provide millets and other nutritious commodities such as pulses and oil while procuring these at the Minimum Support Price (MSP)

Extension of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana till such time that the pandemic continues, with the provision of edible oil and pulses to each household. Ensure immediate implementation of the June 29th, 2021 order of the Supreme Court, in In Re: Problems and Miseries of Migrant Workers (Suo Motu WP(C) 06/2020), wherein the Court directed that dry rations should be provided to all migrant workers being non-ration cardholders and that community kitchen should be opened to provide cooked food to people in need.

Hot cooked meals under ICDS and midday meals should be revived immediately. The budgets for these programmes should make adequate provisions for inclusion of eggs and nutrient dense diet in the meals. Hot cooked meals should extend to children under three years of age through crèches and to pregnant and lactating women through community kitchens

PM Kisan Yojana is limited to only land owning class and only 8% of women have land titles in their name. Women farmers must be issued Kisan Card and ensured access to credit and all subsidies of the farm sector by the state.

Job days under MNAREGA which is a life-line for the BPL population, have fallen with reduction in fund allocation from 1,11170 crore in the previous budget to 73ooo crore in the current budget.  FM did not even mention the scheme in her budget speech.  The former Governor of RBI, Dr. Subbarao stated that budget is great on growth but on jobs. 

Social expenditure on PDS is highly inadequate and reduced to 1,45920 crores in the current budget. It was 2,10929 crores. This is deplorable as the worst impact of last 2 years’ pandemic is mass hunger and malnutrition.

How will our children and young adults get solid fundamental education when the public expenditure on education is around 3% of GDP? The National Education Policy (NEP), 1968 recommended the spending on education to be 6% of the GDP. NEP 2020 has reaffirmed this recommendation. Experts have recommended that looking at the pandemic triggered stoppage of education to over 12 crore students in India who are out of school since March 2020, the public investment in education must increase to 8% of GDP.

The Union Budget is facilitating state capitalism, in a race to subsidise the super-rich and whole of social sector and gender responsive budgeting has taken a back seat. The budget does not address the rising inequality in the society 84 percent of families in the country have faced a decline in their incomes since the start of the pandemic. They are from SC, ST, minorities, sexual minorities, scheme workers, farmers and women from the underserved sections of the economy and they feel discriminated against.  

It is in this context that women’s rights organisations have vociferously demanded that to safeguard Constitutional Right to a life with dignity. It is imperative that the government must address malnutrition and anaemia by strengthening universalizing the Public Distribution System guaranteeing provision of all essential commodities. The budget should create massive opportunities for women’s work and a safe and secure work environment and for making substantial public sector investment for health and education.   

Recommendations

Universalize Public Distribution System (PDS). The quotas can be immediately expanded on the basis of the population projections for 2022 to include all vulnerable persons even without ration cards. Expand PDS to include millets, pulses and oils. Continue the ccommunity Kitchens/Dry Rations for migrant workers. 

Provide hot cooked meals under ICDS with nutrient dense and protein rich food (children, adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women). Create Anganwadi cum-Creches and enhance resources for Creches for 8 hours service so that work participation of young women with children increases in the Indian Economy. Guarantee the state stipulated minimum Wages and decent working conditions for workers for ICDS, Mid-Day meal and other scheme workers.

Increase substantively the expenditure on health –  to at least 2.5 percent of the GDP (which has reduced significantly!) and plan on at least 0.3 percent increase every year till 2024-25 (to honour the NHP promise). protection and remuneration for health workers, services for women and children, Mental health programme, and essential Health research

Prioritise spending on strengthening and expanding public health services including primary health –  concretely, Health and Wellness Centres with  full,  well trained  and competent staff. Appoint Male Health Workers.  Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram and other adolescent and young people’s health and nutrition programmes need increased investment and tracking of health outcomes. Enhance budget allocation to combat violence against women and recognise gender based violence as a health issue. Guarantee free medicines (including blood), diagnostics (including cancer screening) at the public hospitals.   

Double the expenditure on the 7 million frontline workers – ASHAs, AWWs, AWHs. Regularise ASHAs as permanent staff with fixed salaries. Ensure social security, protection to all front line staff. 

Ensure universal health coverage – through social health insurance, expansion of ESIS to cover informal sector workers with awareness and integration of gender sensitivity. 

Budgetary allocation for education must be 6% of GDP to bridge the digital divide, ensure free secondary education for girls (Exemption of tuition fees, board examination fees), monetary and non-monetary incentives to students (demand driven scholarship, timely distribution of scholarship money and inflation indexed upward revision of scholarship amount), education scholarships for both pre-matric and post-matric for children in families engaged in unclean occupations, free education for transgender children and the children of sex workers to ensure that they do not drop out of school. Access to educational material must be facilitated. 

Organise special vaccination camps for women, persons with disabilities, transgender community and elderly to address the vaccination gap.

Maternity Protection: Allocate mminimum outlay of 8000 crore (with states contributing 60:40)

And implement universal unconditional maternity allowance of Rs 6000 for all births (contraception was unavailable last 2 years)

Give top most priority Budget provision for employment generation focusing the marginalized and informal sector in the rural, urban and tribal areas. Allocation for NREGA should be increased to provide at least 200 days of work per year to all rural households seeking employment, at least at the statutory minimum wage. The current issue of payment delay across the country should be resolved with an increase in budget. 

Pensions for transgender persons, elderly, widowed, and disabled to be a minimum of Rs 2000 per month. Start massive drives for registration of women workers (not only digital methods)and ensure the utilization of funds available in labor welfare Boards

Subsidized housing by the state for the migrant workers is the need of an hour. 

The schemes for social protection, prevention of domestic violence, skill training, public transport, digital literacy, and support for unpaid care work.

Strengthen the SAMBAL scheme (a grouping of existing schemes, including One Stop Centre, Mahila Police Volunteer, Women’s Helpline, Swadhar Greh, Ujjawala, Widow Homes, and Working Women Hostel Schemes), childcare and elderly care services. 

There is an urgent need for allocation of budget and human resources to strengthen data systems in India to generate more dependable data for the informal sector, sanitation workers and their households, socio-economic and educational status of different socio-religious communities. The pandemic has shown us that there is a need for accurate data on deaths, including age, sex, comorbidities/ health condition disaggregated data according to age and gender for better planning and an appropriate health system response.  

References:

Feminist Policy Collective (2022) Recommendations for Union Budget 2022-23, http://www.feministpolicyindia.org/whats-new.php?action=details&id=232. Accessed on 1-2-2022

GOI (2021)Union Budget 2021-22, https://www.india.gov.in/spotlight/union-budget-2021-2022. Accesses on 2-2-2022

GOI (2022) Union Budget 2022-23, https://www.indiabudget.gov.in/. Accessed on 1-2-2022

Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (2022) Union Health Budget 2022-23 falls flat, fails to
allocate funds for COVID care! Health budget stagnant despite COVID crisis, National Health Mission neglected! http://phmindia.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/JSA-Press-Statement-UB-2022-23-English-Final.pdf. Accessed on 2-2-2022

Human Development Index 2020 is a report published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). India ranked at 131st position out of 189 countries in the index. https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/human-development-index-india-ranking-1608992272-1. Accessed on 1-2-2022.

World Social Protection Report 2020-22, https://www.ilo.org/global/research/global-reports/world-social-security-report/2020-22/lang–en/index.htm. Accessed on 2-2-2022.

Oxfam Report: Inequality Kills: The unparalleled action needed to combat unprecedented inequality in the wake of COVID-19,  https://policy-practice.oxfam.org/resources/inequality-kills-the-unparalleled-action-needed-to-combat-unprecedented-inequal-621341/. Accessed  on 1-2-2022.

Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) – Quarterly Bulletin [October-December 2020] https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1753531. Accessed on 2-2-2022.

State of Working India 2019, Centre for Sustainable Employment, Azim Premji University, https://cse.azimpremjiuniversity.edu.in/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/State_of_Working_India_2019.pdf. Accessed on 3-2-2022.

Global Hunger Index 2021- India, https://www.globalhungerindex.org/pdf/en/2021/India.pdf Accessed on 3-2-2022

SDG India: Niti Ayog, https://www.niti.gov.in/writereaddata/files/SDG_3.0_Final_04.03.2021_Web_Spreads.pdf. Accessed on 4-2-2022

About the Author

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Vibhuti PatelFormer Professor, Advanced Center for Women’s Studies, School of Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. Visitng Professor at IMPRI

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