Little over a month ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme from Panipat with much fanfare. On Saturday, his government slashed the allocation for the Women and Child Development Ministry by more than 50% from last year’s allocation.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley allocated Rs 10,382 crore for the ministry. Last year, the allocation was Rs 21,193 crore of which the ministry managed to spend Rs 18,588 crore. The allocation left the ministry flummoxed given that the expenditure on the flagship Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) alone is in the Rs 16,000 crore range. The allocation for ICDS has come down to about Rs 8,000 crore. Despite repeated attempts, secretary Vinay Sheel Oberoi remained unavailable for comments. SMSes on his mobile phone remained unanswered, even as senior ministry functionaries struggled to make sense of the numbers.
The drastic cut will now mean that several plans including a Rs 900 crore National Nutrition Mission and a proposal to hike the honorarium paid to anganwadi workers will have to wait till a more financially opportune time. Anganwadi workers are all set to go on a one-day strike on March 3 to protest against the fund cut. The Rs 1,000 crore additional allocation announced under the Nirbhaya fund has not cut much ice.
Activists slammed the reduction saying that the NDA government has failed the country’s women and children. “The scheme for setting up of 6,000 model schools at the block level as a benchmark of excellence has faced a 99.92% deduction in allocation. 2.3 crore children in India are malnourished. It is very disheartening to know that the scheme that deals with malnourishment — ICDS — has seen a drastic decrease in allocation,” said a statement from HAQ-Centre of Child Rights, an NGO working with children. In a statement the All India Democratic Women’s Association criticised the “anti-woman pro-corporate” Budget.
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A 1.6-per cent hike for MEA
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) was allocated Rs 236.44 crore more than the last fiscal in the Union Budget. While the allocation was Rs 14,730.39 crore in the Budget estimates in 2014-15, the allocation has been marginally increased to Rs 14,966.83 crore for 2015-16, an increase of 1.6 per cent. As much as about 61 per cent of the Ministry’s budget is allocated towards Technical and Economic Cooperation with other countries, ministry officials said. (ens)