Mitali Nikore, is an Independent Economist and Founder of Nikore Associates. She is also a Key member of Edumate.tv Think Tank.
Today we are going to deal with something that the government and UN Women and other agencies called the gender budget. India actually has amongst the best gender budgets globally. I’ve been through gender statements and gender budget allocations across the world. And several countries and I have never seen the kind of detail that India provides in something it calls statement 13, which is released every year, since 2005. And this allows us I mean, as I mean, you know, economists like myself to track where allocations have been made in which schemes under which ministries under which department towards women empowerment, any schemes which are targeted towards upliftment of women. Now, I will just point out a few trends to you about India’s gender budget. The first thing is that India’s gender budget is actually quite low, it’s never actually crossed 1% of GDP. And in 2020-2021, when additional allegations were made, emergency spending was made on schemes like the PM, Jan-Dhan Yojana, Ujjwala Yojana. And actually allocations were given to women, the gender budget crossed 1% of GDP. But then in 2021 -22, it again came down point. 7% of GDP. Now, if I were to look at it as a proportion of the total expenditure, that is the total budget, again, if we look at the trends over the last 15 years, between 2005 and 2020, agenda budget has actually never crossed 5% of the total expenditure, except in 2011-12, when it can went up to 5.9%. And in 2020 2021, again, it touched 6%. But in 2021 -22, it came back down to 4.4%, of the total expenditure budget, essentially, that gender budget, 2020, or when it was allocated, versus what was actually spent, there was some changes in the gender budget, because there were emergency social protection considerations. So there was additional spending, which was made on the direct transfer program under the Jan-Dhan Yojana, there was additional allocation made to the PM Awas Yojana, there was additional allocation made to the Mgnrega Scheme, you know, the rural guarantee program. But on account of that, there was an overall reduction across other schemes as well.
If we look at another very interesting facet of the agenda budget, is that since 2005- 2006, actually, the Gender Budget has remained very concentrated. It isn’t a very dynamic budget, it’s remained concentrated in just five ministries. Of course, the Ministry of women and Child Development gets a big share. But then there’s also the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Rural Development, Human Resource Development as Education, and Agriculture. So all of these ministries actually corner around 90% of the gender budget. And, you know, 2021- 22 was no different with these five ministries receiving around 87% of the allocations. Now, when we look at some of the centrally sponsored schemes, you know, the flagship schemes of the government, then the biggest scheme, the most important scheme for the gender budget is actually the PM Awas Yojana, which gets a large proportion of the gender budget. The second is the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme, that’s Mgnrega. And now a new scheme has been introduced this year, which is called Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan Scheme which is essentially a nutrition scheme, which has the third highest allocation in the gender budget. This is followed by Samagra Shiksha, which is, the school education and literacy scheme, and then National Rural livelihood Mission. So these five schemes actually together constitute about half of the gender budget, and then other schemes are Reproductive and Child Health Flexible Pool, the National Rural Health Mission, Health Infrastructure, Midday Meals and support for Central Universities IITs and IIMs is and with all of this, it’s about, it adds up to around 90% of the gender budget. But post COVID Actually, there are some new priority areas, which emerged, which were important for women, you know, which were in which are now important for women going forward. One of those is say digital literacy. This year 120 crores have been allocated by the government for digital literacy, especially in rural areas, but this is just about point 08 percent of the gender budget. Public transport, integrating women in public spaces receives about point 13% of the gender budget, skill training point 03 percent of the gender budget, domestic violence point 4% of the gender budget, and social protection, just about 1.3% of this year’s gender budget.
So my point is, as we move forward, we all recognize that COVID has had a disproportionate impact on women. COVID has created situations where women have lost jobs, women are vulnerable to domestic violence and because of the gender based digital divides, women don’t have as much access to digital devices as men do. In such a circumstance, we actually need a more dynamic gender budget. And we need to move away from putting all our allocations and just five ministries towards just few schemes to broad basing the gender budget and of course, increasing the quantum of the gender budget.