The gender budget of the government as a share of the Budget has seen a decline of 0.01% this fiscal - dropping from 4.72% last year to 4.71% - in financial year 2020-2021. The expenditure proposed under it is ₹1,43, 461.72 crore.
As a share of the GDP, it has also reduced from 0.69% of revised estimates for 2019-2020 to 0.63% of proposed estimates for 2020-2021, according to the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA). However, in absolute terms there has been an increase of 8.9% as compared to last year’s gender budget of ₹1,31,700 crore.
The last Budget announcement proposed setting up of a committee to look at Budget through the gender lens which would suggest actions but its status and outcome are not yet known. The nodal Ministry, i.e. the Ministry for Women and Child Development, has seen an increase of 14% in allocation, which has gone up to ₹30,007 crore in financial year 2020-2021 from ₹26,184 crore in the current fiscal.
The schemes that have seen an increase include the scheme for adolescent out-of-school girls, which has gone up from ₹150 crore to ₹250 crore; working women hostel where the allocation has tripled from ₹45 crore to ₹150 crore.
There is also a 92% increase in the allocation for One Stop Centre which received ₹385 crore.
The government has also allocated ₹500 crore under the Nirbhaya Fund for programmes on safety of women.
The Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana has seen a paltry increase from ₹2,300 crore to ₹2,500 crore despite demands for higher allocation to improve coverage under the scheme.
Interestingly, though the Finance Minister’s speech was divided into three themes viz. aspiration, economic development and caring society, women’s issues were primarily confined to the last category.
While the FM said ₹28,600 crore was set aside for programmes specific to women, there was no mention of programmes to boost women’s employment. The female labour force participation (FLPR) has seen a sharp decline at 26% in 2018 from 36.7% in 2005.
The FM also announced that a task force will be set up to look at the age at which a girl enters motherhood to reduce maternal mortality rate and improve nutrition levels.
“This is a positive step. This will ensure their participation and contribution to the economy, as delayed age of marriage will enable them to complete their education and acquire job and life skills. This will also help the country to deal with the population momentum and achieve population stabilisation,” said Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India.
She rued the decline in allocation for family welfare schemes. It has fallen from ₹770 crore in 2018-19 to ₹700 crore in 2019-20 to ₹600 crore in the current Budget. “This may adversely affect the access to family planning services especially the availability of spacing methods which are much needed to stabilise the population momentum,” Ms. Muttreja added.