No specific provision for women’s devp: Experts

ST CORRESPONDENT
Friday, 1 February 2019

The total budget allocation for the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry has been enhanced by Rs 4,856 crore for the year 2019-20 showing an increase of 20 per cent standing at Rs 29,165 crore this year.

PUNE: Although officiating Finance Minister (FM) Piyush Goyal claimed in his interim budget 2019 that the government is focused on women’s development and empowering working women, women activists and experts feel the Budget doesn’t have specific provisions for women’s development.

The total budget allocation for the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry has been enhanced by Rs 4,856 crore for the year 2019-20 showing an increase of 20 per cent standing at Rs 29,165 crore this year.

This year, the Budget hiked funds for working women’s hostels from Rs 52 crore to Rs 165 crore which is thrice the previous budget allocation and national creche scheme from Rs 30 crore to Rs 50 crore. It also mentions 26 weeks’ maternity leave for working women.

Nothing concrete for women in Budget, women farmers’ neglected
“For last four years, the government has consistently deducted WCD budget and now this year they have increased some amount. The government is apprehensive that women will not vote for Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” said Kiran Moghe, Secretary of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA).

“By just increasing some amount in Women and Child Development doesn’t make up for the overall development of women. The government has sanctioned Rs 6,000 per year for farmers but women are not considered as farmers because they don’t own land. How much will this benefit them? At an estimate there are 40 crore people in unorganised sector out of which 90 per cent are women. They have allotted Rs 500 crore for unorganised sector which means each woman might get Rs 10 to 12. Technically, this is making fun of the poor,” said Moghe.

Jaya Sagade, Director of Women Studies in ILS Law College said, “There is absolutely no concern regarding women farmers and women labourers in the agriculture sector. There is no special mention of widows of farmers in this Budget. Instead of only providing more hostel facilities for women, more needs to be done in terms of rehabilitation of women. They have young children. It is essential to take a holistic approach towards rehabilitation and education of women and children.”

“Violence against women has been on a high scale in the country. Unless there are serious allotments in the Budget, the laws for protection of women will not be effective. Also the number of women utilising the creche facility is not much in comparison to the budget allocated for it. More than working women, women working in unorganised sector like construction carry their children to their workplace. Therefore, how will it be implemented and beneficial for women remains a question,” said Sagade.

Need parental leave than maternity leave
“Benefits of maternity leave of 26 weeks and Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana for pregnant women have provided financial support to women while empowering them to participate in work,” said FM Goyal.

However, there is no mention of paternity leave.
Emphasising on bringing policies to provide paternity leave as well, Neha Bagaria, Founder and CEO of JobsForHer said, “The government needs to be committed to reducing burden on working parents, particularly in the first 12 months, when it is difficult to secure quality childcare as seen in an online survey for women restarters, where 38 per cent cited childcare as one of the biggest challenges to restart their careers. The government has to mandate ‘Parental Leave’ as opposed to just maternity leave to balance the scales, which will enable women to remain in paid employment and progress in their careers.”

She added, “The government’s announcement of tax exemption for income up to Rs 5 lakh, although gender-neutral and is optimistic for women returning to work. But is this enough of an incentive for women leaving the workplace by the millions? We need to see a stronger focus on hiring and retaining more women in the workforce. We need to see impactful women-specific employment policies that can absorb and support women in the Indian workplace.”

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