The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) strongly condemns the utter callousness by which the Government of India has approached the extremely important exercise of budget-making. Like this year’s Economic Survey, the budget speech hoodwinks the people and ignores their real concerns.

The dismissal of the social reality is evident in the fact that government expenditure has decreased from around 16 percent of the GDP in the revised estimates of 2021-22 to 15.2 percent of the budgetary estimates of 2022-2023. The Gender Budget has decreased from 0.71 percent of GDP of the revised estimates for 2021-22 to 0.66 percent of the GDP in the budgetary estimates of 2022-2023; the allocations for the Ministry of Women and Child Development remain well under 0.10 percent of the total projected expenditure in 2022-23. The increasing instances of violence against women demanded that Mission Shakti, Samarthya and Vatsalya receive increased allocations. But, the combined budget of these is well below 1 percent of the total expenditure.

Women are a large number of the beneficiaries in the schemes which include MGNREGS, National Social Assistance Programme, and Schemes for Welfare of SC, ST, Minorities and other Vulnerable sections. The combined expenditure on these schemes has reduced from 3.2 percent of the total revised expenditure of 2021-22 to 2.5 percent in budget allocation in 2022-2023. This shows that the government’s vision for ‘Amrit Kaal’ has no place for women.

The government’s proposals are singularly lacking in any constructive measures for resolving problems of unemployment. In particular, the allocation of MGNREGS, which is meant to provide employment to women in times of distress has decreased by 14 percent over the revised estimates of 2021-22. It is worth while recalling that in the last budget this allocation had reduced by almost 40 percent. Further, the thrust for urbanization does not account for any support for employment creation: all demands for Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme have been ignored in this budget. Though the Minister stressed on ‘inclusive development’, there is virtually no substantive allocation for social security for women. There are no significant tax concessions for working women.

India’s position in the Global Hunger Index has worsened considerably in last year, and yet food subsidies have been decreased by 16 percent. LPG subsidy was phased out last year, leading to a unprecedented rise in prices by more than Rs. 200 per cylinder in one year. Further, the allocations for redesignated mid-day meal scheme or the PM Poshan Yojana has remained unchanged. The allocations for Saksham-Poshan 2.0 (including umbrella ICDS programmes) has also remained virtually the same. However, it should be noted that the government is not aiming to use this money to provide more food to children or better wages for ICDS workers; rather it wants to create 2 lakh ‘Smart Anganwadis’ focusing on IT and infrastructure, rather than nutrition. The rights and demands of anganwadi workers remain unaddressed.

Girl students have suffered hugely in the pandemic, especially because of the promotion of online education. This budget has virtually nothing to enable the opening of schools and colleges by allocating more funds for improving infrastructure for safe learning. Rather it unabashedly wants to implement the anti-girl/women New Education Policy, and promotes large scale online and virtual education. The budget envisions education through television, e-vidya and digital university. The stagnant level of funding for educational programmes and sports for girl students implies that budgetary allocations for education will be diverted from scholarships and expansion of physical infrastructure to online learning, and the needs of girl students will be ignored.

The Budget 2022-23 displays an utter contempt for the concerns of women, farmers and working people. All forms of corporate tax have been decreased by three percent, thus giving the corporates a bonanza on the road to ‘Amrit Kaal’. The latest data available from several reputed organisations has shown a deepening of inequalities, which are marked by rising incomes for the rich and falling incomes for the families of workers and farmers, who constitute more than 80 percent of the population. The unemployment rates are at an all-time high, with women’s unemployment going up to 19.9 percent in urban and 12.8 percent in rural areas by December 2021. Reports of rising indebtedness and hunger are coming in from every nook and corner of the country. This BJP-RSS government has refused to address any of these concerns. 

The AIDWA calls upon all sections of the democratic society to expose the malicious intent of the Modi Government and defeat their neoliberal project in the upcoming elections. AIDWA-DYFI-SFI units will hold protests all over the country against this anti-people’s budget.