In July this year, the Gujarat government for the first time came up with a gender budget for the financial year 2014-15. Several civil society organizations had long been demanding from the state government to introduce gender budget. In fact, they were advocating for it for several years. Finally, the state government came up with the gender budget for 2014-15, which is, no doubt, a positive development. The gender budget statement will enable people to find out how the Gujarat government has allocated funds under various programmes and schemes related to women’s welfare and security. They can now ascertain what policy directions the state government is taking to implement different programmes and schemes for women, their actual implementation, and the effectiveness of the legal provision for their implementation.
No doubt, even earlier, each department would allocate special schemes for women, but this made it difficult for ordinary citizens to understand how much of the amount would actually go for the welfare and development of women. With gender budgeting, all the information about funds allocation for women is available in one budget book in a consolidated form, making it easier for anyone to monitor allocation and expenditure.
The Government of India introduced its first gender budget statement in 2005-06. Thereafter, the Union ministry of finance and the Planning Commission of India (which is now in a state of animated suspension) asked all state governments to follow suit. In fact, every year, the Planning Commission would direct state governments to prepare gender budget statement. Some of the states such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Kerala, Karnataka, Bihar and Assam followed the Government of India directive immediately and began gender budgeting. In Gujarat, however, the gender budget statement was prepared for the first time in 2014-15 with the aim of initiating a new era of women’s empowerment.
Gujarat’s gender budget statement has been prepared by the finance department in alliance with the state planning division and the state woman and child department. It provides for gender budgeting under two sections, identified as Section A and Section B. Under Section A, only those schemes and programmes requiring cent per cent funds allocation for women have been included, while under Section B the funds allocation for women are in the range of 30 to 99 per cent. Under Section A, in all, 87 different types of schemes have been included, and the total allocation (plan and non-plan) is to the tune of Rs 1,880.11 crore. Under Section B, as many as 408 schemes have been covered, and the total allocation (plan and non-plan) being to the tune of Rs 43,379.21 crore.
Under Section A, containing cent per cent allocation for women’s welfare, 11 of the total 17 government departments have gone in for allocating special funds for women. As many as six departments – energy and petrochemicals, food and civil supplies, home, industries and mines, ports and transport, and roads and buildings – have not allocated special funds for women under Section A.
A closer scrutiny suggests that there is scope for improvement in gender budgeting of Gujarat. For instance, while allocations have been made under various heads, no codes have been indexed for the various schemes which fall under them. This is very different from the way gender budgeting has been carried out in other states – there, the allocations have been made under demand numbers (or codes), subdivided into major heads, sub-major heads, details heads, and object heads. However, in Gujarat’s gender budget statement there is no such classification. One can only hope that next year this mistake is not repeated. Only when budget codes are allocated under each head or subhead is it technically feasible for the respective government department to identify as to under which head or subhead it should spend the funds for women made available to it.
While under Section A, under which cent per cent allocations have been made for women, explanations accompany on what exactly are the funds meant for, under Section B (for both men and women) in which allocation for women is between 30 and 99 per cent there is no such explanation. Also, allocations under Section B should have been made indicating the percentage of funds meant for women. One hopes that this is rectified the next budget. There is one more flaw: Unfortunately, the gender budget document has been published only in English. This would devoid a large section of the Gujarati-knowing population of the state of finding out what exactly is there in the document.
Complying with the Constitution of India’s section 202(1), the gender budget statement should have been placed in the Gujarat state assembly for approval. In fact, acting under the section, the Gujarat government came up with a supplementary statement of demands, with specific codes, for allocation of more funds for panchayats and urban local urban bodies in 2011-12, and got it approved from the state assembly. A similar practice should have been followed for the gender budget statement as well.
The gender budget statement contains several glaring errors. Some of the schemes have been duplicated. For instance, in Section A, the Balika Samruddhi Yojna is mentioned under scheme No 57 and scheme No 65. Then, the Kishori Shakti Yojna finds mention under scheme No 58 and scheme No 66. Also, the Additional Facility to Anganwadi Worker and Anganwadi Helper finds mention under scheme No 59 and scheme No 64. The duplication for the Additional Facility to Anganwadi Worker and Anganwadi Helper has led to the allocation of the same amount, Rs 119.88 crore, twice, which means that Rs 119.88 crore should be deducted from the total allocation, bringing down the funds under Section A to Rs 1760.23 crore.
A closer look at allocations under Section A suggests that out a total of Rs 1,760.23 crore, 32 per cent of the funds are meant for social security and welfare of women, 26.41 per cent for educational and skill development, 25.71 per cent for health facilities, and 15.86 per cent for livelihood and economic development. Summing up, one can say that in the budget for 2014-15, the Gujarat government has taken an important step towards implementing its gender policy, Nari Gaurav Niti, formulated in 2006. Now, the state government should move towards preparing a gender responsive budget. It should particularly identify vulnerable sections of women and make special allocations to them.
*Programme Director, Pathey Budget Centre, Ahmedabad