Right to Food Campaign
G-46, First Floor, Green Park (Main), New Delhi 110016
BUDGET 2015- 16
FOOD SECURITY, MALNUTRITION AND ELIMINATING HUNGER LOW PRIORITY FOR THE MODI GOVERNMENT
3rd March, 2015
The Budget 2015 has once again made it clear the Government’s agenda of keeping the markets and corporate sector happy even at the cost of the welfare of the poorest and most vulnerable persons in the country. While it is welcome that states get greater allocations under the new rules of fiscal devolution, the central Government is using this as an excuse to abdicate itself from any responsibility to the social sector. While the projected receipts of the states has increased by Rs 1.41 lakh crore (by 37 per cent), this has been matched by a reduction of Rs 1.34 lakh crore in the budgeted Central assistance to state plans (CASP). Even taking into account the grants-in-aid recommended by the FC, the total transfers from the Centre to the states go up from Rs 7.62 lakh crore in 2014-15 (budget estimate) to Rs 7.93 lakh crore in 2015-16, a nominal increase of only 4 per cent [as pointed out by Prof. Abhijit Sen, member of the Finance Commission].
Having been passed unanimously in September 2013 the budget for year 2015-16 should have provisioned for the finances needed to implement the National Food Security Act, 2013 to the hilt, but this budget shows no commitment towards food security entitlements of the people. The Right to Food campaign is appalled to see that in spite of the law the Modi Government has no qualms in systematically preventing its implementation by starving it of funds.
PDS: The NFSA provides for cheap foodgrains of 5kg per head for 67% of the country’s population. According to the Government of India, as of now the Act is being implemented only in 11 states, that too partially. The budget for the food subsidy has hardly increased, from Rs. 1.22 lakh crores to Rs. 1.24 lakh crores. This indicates that the Government does not anticipate any increase in the quantum of grain to be distributed through the PDS this year, nor an increase in prices (MSP) in which the grain is procured.
Further, with the emphasis on cash transfers in the Economic Survey and the Finance Minister’s speech it is not even clear if the PDS in the current form will be allowed to continue for much longer. The Right to Food campaign has been repeatedly pointing out the dangers of replacing the provision of grains through the PDS with cash transfers as it will result in loss of minimum grain security for many families, banks are inaccessible, the entire procurement mechanism which provides price support to farmers will be under threat etc. Even some state governments (Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu recently, and Chhattisgarh sometime back) have written openly that they do not think that the time for replacing PDS with cash transfers has come. We demand that the Government put a complete hold on the shift from grain to cash.
Women and children’s nutrition and health is a non-issue for this Government despite India ranking 126 in the Global index on Maternal Mortality and 127 in the Gender Inequality Index. (Human Development 2014). Despite the NFSA having a provision of a universal maternity benefit entitlement of Rs. 6000 to all pregnant and lactating mother, there is no provision of this in the budget denying the pregnant and lactating women and the new born children of their right. All we have is a pilot scheme in 53 districts (which was initiated even before the NFSA). The budget allocation for this scheme for 2015-16 of Rs. 400 crores is hardly sufficient to provide maternity entitlements to women even in these 53 districts.
Other NFSA provisions too have been undermined by reducing the budget provisions of the school mid-day meal scheme by about 30%. Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) has been reduced by 50%. While it is argued that the states can now spend more on these schemes with the fiscal restructuring, it needs to be reminded that these schemes were already under-funded and with such cuts the states will barely be able to maintain current spending levels. However, there were urgent enhancements required in these schemes such as introduction of eggs and fruits, better wage payments to cooks, helpers and anganwadi workers, additional workers and so on. There seems no political will to ensure better nutrition.
This budget is not bad news only in the case of food but for the entire social sector. The budgetary allocations for the pension schemes have also been similarly cut. In the case of the NREGA as well, the budget allocation is almost the same as last year which means in real terms it has actually gone down. There has been a 29 % reduction in budget for children from 2014-15. There is a cut in the allocations in school-related schemes like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (by 21%) and Mid-Day Meal scheme (by 30%). In the case of health, the overall budget allocation has been reduced from Rs.39237crores to Rs.33152 crores. On each of these schemes, the current levels of spending are already very low and there is a crying need for expanding outlays on these. Let us also remind ourselves that as a proportion of GDP social sector spending is amongst the lowest in India. If there is indeed high economic growth as mentioned by the Finance Minister, there is no excuse for not allocating sufficiently for these high-priority sectors.
At a time when the rural economy is in crisis, as agreed by the Finance Minister himself in his speech, it is worrying that the budget has seen greatest cuts in this sector. This is a serious cause for concern because of the predicted decline cereal, pulse and oilseed outputs this year. In the context where the Land Ordinance poses the threat of unfair land acquisition on a large scale, this is nothing but a full-fledged attack on the agriculture sector, farmers’ livelihoods and food security of the country.
We hope that the people’s representatives in the Parliament raise these issues strongly and ensure that such anti-people measures are not allowed to pass.
Kavita Srivastava and Dipa Sinha, Convenors, Steering Committee of Right to Food Campaign
National Networks: VB Rawat (Former Support Group), Annie Raja, (National Federation for Indian Women), Colin Gonsalves , (Human Right Law Network), Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Anjali Bhardwaj, (National Campaign for People’s Right to Information), Madhuresh, Arundhati Dhuru and Ulka Mahajan (National Alliance of People’s Movements), Asha Mishra and Kashinath Chatterjee (Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti), Ashok Bharti (National Conference of Dalit Organizations), Anuradha Talwar, Gautam Modi and Madhuri Krishnaswamy (New Trade Union Initiative), Binayak Sen (People’s Union for Civil Liberties), Subhash Bhatnagar (National Campaign Committee for Unorganized Sector workers), Paul Divakar and Asha Kowtal (National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights), Mira Shiva, Radha Holla and Vandana Prasad (Jan Swasthya Abhiyan), Ranjeet Kumar Verma, Prahlad Ray, Praveen Kumar, Anand Malakar (Rashtriya Viklang Manch), Lali Dhakar, Sarawasti Singh, Shilpa Dey and Radha Raghwal (National Forum for Single Women’s Rights), G V Ramanjaneyulu, Kavita Kuruganthi (Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture), Jashodhara (National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights), Ilango (National Fishworkers Federation), Zasia, Sonam, and Noor Jehan (Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan), Mayank Sinha, National Network on Nomadic and Denotified Nomadic Tribes,
State Representatives: M Kodandram, Rama Melkape, Veena Shatrughana (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana), Gangabhai and Samir Garg (Chhattisgarh), Abhay Kumar (Karnataka), Suresh Sawant, Mukta Srivastava (Maharashtra), Balram and James Herenj, Gurjeet Singh, Dheeraj (Jharkhand), Ashok Khandelwal, Shyam and Vijay Lakshmi (Rajasthan), Sachin Jain (Madhya Pradesh), Joseph Patelia, Sejal Dand, Neeta Hardikar and (Gujarat), Saito Basumaatary, Raju Narzari, Bondita Acharya and Sunil Kaul (Assam), Rupesh, (Bihar), V Suresh (Tamil Nadu), Bidyut Mohanty Raj Kishore Mishra, (Orissa), Ranjeet Kumar Varma, Bindu Singh, Sabina and Richa (Uttar Pradesh), Pushpa, Dharmendra, Ramendra, Yogesh, Vimla and Sarita (Delhi), Fr Jothi SJ and Mr. Saradindu (West Bengal)
Individual Representatives: Biraj Patnaik, Harsh Mander, Manas Ranjan, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Ankita Aggarwal, Kamayani Bali Mahabal , Swati Narayan and Ritu Priya