Gujarat’s budget advocacy group Pathey identifies weak spots in social sector budgetary allocation, calls for plugging of loopholes

budgetPathey Budget Centre, a Gujarat-based advocacy group, has prepared a charter of demands for the development, empowerment and welfare of citizens like children, women, and schedule castes and schedule tribes of state. It wants the state to make special efforts for the welfare of vulnerable social groups including people with disabilities, workers of unorganized sector, de-notified tribes, other backward communities, widows and citizens in geographically backward regions. It has recommended special programmes to meet the aspirations and expectations of these sections. Excerpts:

Economically, Gujarat has been progressing well. However, economic development should also translate into development and welfare of each citizen with emphasis on universal quality education and health care access to all. Gujarat’s budget programme should ensure equitable access to education and healthcare, water and sanitation, and basic infrastructure. One of the major challenges before the state government is to create an infrastructure to facilitate employment to everyone, especially agricultural labourers, who form the biggest economic class in the rural areas, dependent on daily wages for survival. The number of agricultural labourers has been increasing. They are estimated at 68 lakh, or around 11 per cent of the population of the state. But they lack any type of social security.

Children’s development and welfare:

Gujarat’s children suffer from a high degree of malnourishment. Malnourishment levels are particularly high among Adivasi and Dalit children. Gujarat’s infant mortality rate (IMR), 38 per thousand, is quite high compared to many other states. IMR among the state’s rural areas is also quite high. It indicates existence of gap in family welfare and health care services in interior, geographically backward areas.
For addressing malnourishment among children and women, the state government must ensure efficient functioning of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) centres. The state government spent Rs 1,759.59 crore in 2011‐12 for ICDS and the budget estimate for running nutritional services was Rs 2406.47 crore in 2012‐13. The budget outlay in 2013‐14 was Rs 2,881.24 crore. Looking to the severity of malnourishment problem, it must increase the outlay to Rs 5,000 crore in 2014‐15.

According to the 2011 Census figures, the population in the age group 0 to 18 year was 36.76%. The state government must allocate 20 per cent of the budget for their education, healthcare, nutrition, protection, welfare and development. As per the Pathey Budget Centre study, “Child Budget in Gujarat”, the state government has made 13% (0 to 14 years) budget outlay for children.

The state government should involve parents for monitoring the quality of ICDS centres as responsible stakeholders. Besides, as per the provisions of pro‐active disclosure of the Right to Information (RTI), it should be mandatory to write the information about food menu and number of children accessing ICDS centres. This will ensure participation of parents and transparency and accountability of the service providers.
At the same time, the state government must resolve to eradicate child labour by implementing the prevention of child labour Act in Gujarat.

Presently, the budget outlay for prevention of child labour is negligible. The state government should allocate Rs 5 crore for this. There should be a special cell for monitoring the prevention of child labour. The state government must ensure child labour free Bt cotton farming operations in North Gujarat region, where children come from Rajasthan to work.

Migrant workers’ children: Daily wagers — especially Adivasis who migrate to urban areas and Agariyas or salt pan workers who go to work to the Rann of Kutch — take their children for six to eight months in a year along with them. The same is true of those who work in brick kilns, construction sites, farm labourers and other places. Since malnourishment is widespread among women and children in the unorganized sector, the state government must provide nutrition and healthcare services though mobile vans and education facility to children at work places.

Implementation of the Right to Education Act: The state must formulate the budget proposal in such a way that it ensures compulsory and free quality education to every child. The budget outlay must ensure provision of well-trained teachers and infrastructure like class rooms, drinking water, separate sanitation for girls, electricity, library, play ground, computers and compound wall. The infrastructure development must cover the tribal areas in the eastern belt.

In some interior areas, like in the tribal belt or in Kutch district, people speak a distinct dialect; the children in such areas should be provided education in the medium of their own dialect for a few years and then shifted to the main language of the state. The teachers in such areas should be from the local area to facilitate education in the local dialect.

Women’s rights and development:

The state government has formulated Nari Gaurav Niti (gender policy) for ensuring comprehensively empowerment, development and welfare of women, who constitute 48 per cent of the state population. The state government should issue a Gujarat gender budget statement, indicating budget allocation for women, and also provide information about the number of beneficiaries under each welfare scheme meant for women in different line departments.

There are various legal provisions and acts for the protection of women against violence, exploitation, dowry, and child marriage, but budget allocation for enforcement of such acts is negligible. The state government should make adequate financial allocation for the enforcement of such laws. Women victims of violence should not have to suffer for demanding justice. There should be a special mobile service like 108 (for emergency healthcare) for women victims of violence in each taluka. The state government should allocate a substantial amount of finance for such service.

Each police station must have women police personnel for facilitating better complaint registration to the harassed women. Each district should have a separate women’s court for addressing women’s issues. The state government should enhance legal services to women by setting up women counseling centres at taluka headquarters. Women should get free legal aid from these women’s courts. The state government should allocate Rs 30 crore for the implementation of prevention of domestic violence.

Other important demands are:
• The state government should do an evaluation of SHG (self-help groups) for better implementation of Sakhi Mandals in Gujarat.
• There is an urgent need of increasing women’s participation in governance at PRIs or Panchayati Raj institutions and urban local bodies (ULBs). The state government should increase the reservation of women to 50 per cent.
• There should be separate budget outlay for capacity building of elected women at PRI and ULBs. There should be space for women in gram sabha, so that women can discuss developmental issues concerning to women in gram sabha.
• There should be separate funds for the schemes especially meant for women.
• There is need to change the criteria for BPL (below poverty line) for the women-headed households, especially widows, disabled women, single women and divorcees. They should be included in the BPL list access the entitlement.
• The widow pension should be enhanced to Rs 1,500 per month.
• There should be separate banks for providing speedy loans to women.
• There should free healthcare services to women.
• There should be separate facility for women workers’ kid (Ghodiya Ghar) at workplace. This facility should be at worksite like building construction site, brick kiln sit or road construction site.
• The RTE (right to education) should be implemented properly and there should be provisions for constructing separate sanitation facilities for girl students in each school.
• In the informal sector, there is a rise in female workers, hence there should be a separate women labour officers for addressing the issues of female workers.
• The state government must provide social security to new mothers for a year at the rate of the prevailing minimum wages, irrespective economic criteria. This is necessary as women workers in the unorganized sector face malnourishment, and new-born babies suffer.

Social Security of Workers in the Unorganized Sector:

The state has around 93 per cent of unorganized sector workers who eke out their livelihood on the basis of back-breaking labour. Agricultural workers form the biggest group which is without any social security. The number of agricultural labourers is around 68 lakhs. These workers require urgent assistance, including security of wages, healthcare, maternity benefits, wages during sick leave, insurance against accidents and education to their children.

The minimum wages of agricultural labourers should be revised from present Rs 120 day to Rs 230 per day. The state government should initiate the process of implementing provisions of the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 for providing comprehensive social security coverage to all workers of the unorganized sector. For better implementation of social security Act, the state government should create a social security fund of Rs 200 crore. The provision for providing compensation to the accident victims should be enhanced to Rs 5 lakh.

The state government should also ensure enforcement of the laws framed for the protection of workers’ rights and there should be adequate financial provisions for their implementation. The workers in quarries and stone factories are prone to lungs diseases and silicosis. The state government should make provision of in the budget to pay compensation to the victims of such diseases.

The total budgetary outlay for the implementation of labour protection and providing benefits of social security and welfare for year 2012‐13 was Rs. 69.93 crore. Looking at workers’ problems and hardships and their contribution in state economy, the state government must take steps to make workers’ life better. The budget under the sub minor-head labour for protection of labour laws should be Rs 100 crore.

Some of the specific demands are:
• The agricultural labourers in South Gujarat region are prone to leptospirosis; many workers have died due to the disease. The state government must take all possible steps for the prevention of the disease and create awareness about it among the agricultural labourers. The kin of workers who lose their life due to leptospirosis should be paid compensation of Rs 5 lakh each.
• The workers in quarries often get infected by silicosis or serious lungs diseases, which are actually occupational in nature. Such workers should be provided protective equipments. The kin of workers affected by silicosis or any other occupational fatalistic disease should be provided Rs 5 lakh each.
• All the workers irrespective of BPL or APL (above poverty line) should be covered under the Rashtriya Swasthay Bima Yojna (RSBY).
• The state government should prepare a policy for domestic workers for regulation of work and provide for social security to domestic workers. Most of these workers are poor women. Social security for domestic workers is long overdue.
• The state should formulate a policy framework for providing skills to the unemployed, and those who acquire skills should be provided loans for entrepreneurial activities. The state government should provide interest subsidy to such persons.

Construction workers: The state government has started implementing provisions of the Gujarat Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Act. The state government has collected cess amount worth Rs 393.73 crore as of September 2012 for providing the benefits of construction workers. Presently there are 12 lakh construction workers in the state, who could be provided benefits of social security from the Construction Workers’ Welfare Board under the Act. Finances are available. It should issue direction for depositing the cess collection in the welfare board. This will empower the board to run welfare schemes for workers.

All the construction workers should be registered with the welfare board. The state’s labour department should facilitate their registration. Panchayats should be entrusted the work of registration of workers, who migrate from their native places. The Adivasi workers from Panchmahals and Dahod migrate to big cities and urban areas. The state government’s labour department should set up more Rainbaseras or shelter homes in the cities for the temporary stay of migrant workers, so that the migrant workers are provided basic water and sanitation services.

The welfare board should provide health care, nutrition, and educational services to the workers and their children during their stay period at Rainbasera. The construction workers’ children who migrate along with their parents itothe cities should be provided government entitlements like ICDS services, health care and education at the dwelling sites.

Welfare of people with disabilities (PWDs):

The state government’s welfare department should create and facilitate the role of providing opportunities to people with disabilities. Special care should be taken for those with disabilities in rural and tribal areas. People with disability should get their due share from the budget. There should be separate committees for studying the problems of PWDs, which should recommend steps to provide better services. The state government’s Department of Social Justice and Empowerment had spent Rs 88.25 crore against the budget outlay of Rs.91.77 crore in 2011‐12 towards the welfare of PWDs. The budget estimates for providing services to PWD was Rs 99.46 crore and Rs 109.43 crore in 2012‐13 and 2013‐14 respectively. The budgetary outlay in the last three years was negligible compare the needs of the PWDs. It should be enhanced to Rs 250 crore in 2014-15.

The state government should ensure that all government and private buildings are made accessible to PWDs. It should make separate financial provision for this. It should also issue direction to all urban and panchayat bodies as well for this. The state government should initiate “audit of accessibility” of all government and quasi-government buildings. As per the findings of accessibility audit report, the state government should ensure that all buildings create wheelchair ramp, Braille signage, elevators, audio signals at pedestrian crossing and line taps. All buildings should mandatorily display “Accessible to PWDs”.

Other important recommendations are:
• The state government should review the provisions of welfare schemes for PWDs keeping the present inflation line. Under the Sant Surdas scheme, the state government provides Rs 400 to the disabled. The entitlement should be enhanced to Rs 1,500 per month.
• Under the scheme to provide implements to the physically challenged, the amount of purchase is very low. It should be enhanced do Rs 15,000.
• All persons with disabilities should be covered under healthcare insurance scheme.
• The amount of scholarship for students with disabilities is negligible. It should be enhanced to Rs 2,000 per month.
• PWDs should be allowed free travel facility in state government buses. There should be a provision of free travel to escort accompanying the disabled persons.
• All the people with disability should be covered under BPL. There should not be any economic criteria for disabled people to access the benefits of welfare schemes.
• The disabled farmers should be provided sprinkle, fertilizers, seeds, and other agricultural implements for higher yield.
• Self-financed educational institutions should have reservation in admission without any fees.
• The state government should constitute monitoring committees for evaluation of programmes implemented for PWDs.
• The state government should review the economic criteria for accessing the entitlement by PWDs. The income limit to access the entitlement should be enhanced to Rs 2,50,000 per annum.
• The disabled people who get polio operation done should be paid Rs 10,000.
• The disabled people should be provided with easy finance for higher studies.
• All the disabled people should be covered under Antyodaya Annsruksha scheme.

Development and welfare of schedule castes:

It has been observed that the budgetary outlay under the SCSP (Schedule Caste Special Plan) is not fully utilized. The budgetary outlay under SCSP was Rs 1,053.13 crore in 2009-10 but the actual expenditure at the end of year was Rs. 960.91 crore. Similarly, the actual expenditure was Rs 1260.08 crore against the budgetary outlay of Rs. 457.57 crore in 2010‐11. The actual expenditure during 2011‐12 was Rs 1,767.97 crore against the budgetary outlay of Rs 2,050.19 crore. This is unjust. The budget outlay and expenditure for the SCs should be in proportion to their population in the state.

It has also been observed that, often, provisions under SCSP are used up for works which are general in nature. The state government should, therefore, pass a Schedule Caste Special Plan Implementation Act, so that whatever budget outlay remains unutilized is carry forward to next year, and there is no notional expenditure under SCSP.

There should be a separate guideline or framework for making budgetary outlay for provisions of welfare and civic amenities for SCs in municipality corporations. Each municipality corporation has considerable percentage of SC population, with budget running into over a thousand crore. The state should provide budget outlay as “grants” to the nodal agencies implementing SCSP.

Other recommendations are:
• The area development under SCSP should be restricted to pockets where Dalit population is sizeable.
• Special efforts should be made to promote quality education and healthcare, drinking water and sanitation of SCs.
• Specific programmes should be framed to address issues of malnourishment among the SC children.
• The state‐level SC committees should meet more frequently and their reports should be accessed by all citizens. They should be put on a dedicated website.
• There should be dialogue with Dalit groups and exchange of ideas.
• The outcome budget document should be published.
• There should be evaluation of programme implementation of SCSP and its impact by independent agencies with participatory approach.
• As per the census 2011 data, out of 9,95,408 SC households, around 46.57% households (families 4,63,550) are provided treated water through tap, whereas 53.43% ( 5,31,858 households ) get untreated water. In the year 2013‐14, the budget outlay for water and sanitation was Rs 60 crore. This should increase to Rs 200 crore.
• As per the 2011 Census, put of 9,95,408 SC households, 6,58,397 households did have access to latrine facility in their premises. Women suffer the most because of this. The state government must ensure latrine facility to all SC households under SCSP. It should earmark Rs 200 crore for this.

Food security:

Though Gujarat’s total budget in 2012-13 was Rs 1,13,483.68 crore, the benefits of economic development does not reach everyone. There are many families who are below the poverty line (BPL). To bring food security to the BPL and the poor, the state government should introduce its own food security scheme by providing entitlement of food security, making a budgetary outlay of Rs 1,000 crore. This would help fight problems of malnutrition.

Adivasi development, welfare and empowerment:

Tribal communities in Gujarat are among the most marginalized and vulnerable. They live in 18 per cent of the state’s geographical area, predominantly in isolated pockets within hilly and forest terrains. Over 38% of poor families in Gujarat are from the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category. The constitutional safeguards to improve quality of life of the tribal population needs to be backed with financial provisions. The concept of Tribal Area Sub Plan (TASP) was introduced in 1974 for this. The budget proposal for 2014‐15 should be focused on this.

The state government should pass TSP (Tribal Sub-Plan) Implementation Act to ensure that the budgetary outlay is in proportionate to the percentage of population. The unspent budget should be carried forward to the next year. The Act should restrict the diversion of budget from tribal head to some other head.

Other recommendations include:
• Tribal communities should be provided easy access to healthcare in their areas.
• Micro irrigation facilities should be developed for development of agriculture in tribal areas.
• Under social infrastructure development education, safe/piped drinking water, and quality health care should be focused.
• There should be an assured livelihood security for 300 days with decent income.
• Panchayats Extension of Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act, 1996 should be implemented in letter and spirit and tribals should be given the rights to manage and administer minor forest produce.

Tribal Education: The state government should make efforts for reducing the gap in education between tribal and general population. The expenditure for providing education services under TSP was Rs 279 crore in 2011‐12 and the budgetary outlay (revenue + capital) was Rs 507 crore in 2013‐14. For better quality education in the tribal areas, the state government should make budget outlay of Rs 1600 crore in 2014‐15. The state should also make special efforts for preventing dropout at secondary and higher secondary level, even as emphasizing on technical education at the higher level.

Healthcare services in Adivasi areas: The infant mortality rate (IMR) is higher among Adivasi children. Lack of healthcare services in tribal areas has contributed to this. The budgetary expenditure for medical and public health (revenue + capital) for the tribals was Rs 293.07 crore in 2011‐12, and the budget outlay for family welfare and medical and public health was Rs 666.74 crore. The state government should allocate Rs 1,000 crore to address issues of healthcare services of tribal areas.It should be used for recruitment of specialist doctors, provision of medicines and development of medical infrastructure at primary health centres (PHCs) and community health services (CHCs) in tribal areas.

Nutrition for Adivasis: As per the NHFS (National Health Family Survey‐3) report, malnourishment has been observed among Adivasi people more than others. Around 82.9 per cent of the population is found to be suffering from some kind of malnourishment. The budget expenditure in 2011‐12 was Rs 303.54 crore to address malnourishment of tribal people; the budget outlay for the year 2013‐14 was Rs 608.90 crore. The budget for nutrition under TSP should be enhanced to should be enhanced to Rs 900 crore to address the problem of malnourishment in tribal areas.

Implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006: The state government should verify the claims of forest land cultivators and provide land entitlements to all eligible Adivasi forest land cultivators under the Act. As per the information up to September 30, 2012, it received 1,91,582 claims, and following verifications it approved 40,029 claims. The state government should make budget outlay of Rs 10 crore for speedy process of forest land settlement. The state government should make a special budget outlay of Rs 100 crore for land development for better agricultural yield of those forest land cultivators, who have received land entitlement.

Development of irrigation facilities: The Tribal areas are located in hilly regions, where canal irrigation is difficult; therefore, for the development of agriculture and water conservation, the state government should prepare minor and medium irrigation schemes. In 2010‐11, the state government spent Rs 192 crore for minor irrigation and Rs 270 crore for medium irrigation. The budgetaryoutlay for minor and medium irrigation for 2012‐13 was Rs 270 crore and Rs 63 crore respectively. Minor irrigation is more useful in tribal areas. The state government should invest in check dams, wells, contour bunding and lift irrigation. In 2013‐14, the budgetary outlay for minor irrigation was Rs 376.24 crore. The state government should make budget outlay of Rs.500 crore for minor irrigation in 2014‐15 under TASP.

Development of primitive tribes: The Adim Juth or primitive tribes are more backward among Adivasis. These include Siddis, Padhars, Koldhas, Kotwaliyas and Kathodis. They deserve specific welfare and development schemes for education, healthcare and skill development. The state government should make special welfare and development fund of Rs 50 crore for them.

Tribal women’s literacy: At present the literacy rate among tribals is around 53 per cent, which is very low. The state government should allocate special funds for literacy of tribal women.

Senior citizens:
According to the 2011 Census, the population of senior citizens has reached 42.95 lakh, of which women senior citizens was 22,80,751 and of male senior citizens are 20,14,523. The 60 +age group is around 7.11 per cent of the state’s population. Senior citizens face more problems with changing social values, apart from problems related to health, physical fitness, loneliness, psychological fear etc.

Those who have no pension or any support, have to undergo problems of insecurity and mental depression. The state has prime responsibility to take care of their concerns. The pension for senior citizen by the government is only for BPL (below poverty line) and the pension is very meagre in present inflationary context. All the senior citizens should be entitled to pension of Rs 1,500 per month, and the state government should make financial provision for this.

Other recommendations are:
• Special tribunal for redressal of senior citizens’ grievances.
• Separate wards in hospitals for treatment of senior citizens.
• Every district should have geriatric care hospital for providing healthcare and assistance to the aged.
• There should be physiotherapy centres in the neighborhood.
• Police protection should be augmented for senior citizens.
• Public places should be designed in such a way that they are friendly to the aged people and people with disabilities.

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