The Union Budget 2019-20 continued the government’s neglect towards crucial flagship welfare schemes as had been the case during the previous term under Modi. This apathy is an utter slap on the hopes of the poorest sections of people, despite the massive demand for increasing the efficiency of such schemes.
Over the past few years, there has been an increasing demand for work under the rural employment scheme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (as per the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005). For instance, as per official data, during 2018-19, about 9.11 crore people across rural India had applied for work under MGNREGS. However, the government could provide temporary work for some 7.77 crore, which meant that around 1.34 crore (15%) people failed to get employment under the scheme. All this despite the officials’ (implementing the scheme) argument that they could not meet the demand due to shortage of funds. And yet, the current budget does not reflect that the government has taken this into account. Consider this: while Rs 61,084 crore was allotted during 2018-19 (revised estimates) for MGNREGS, the number has fallen to Rs 60,000 crore in 2019-20 (budget estimate).
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The MGNREGS allocation as a share of total government expenditure has increased from 1.98% in 2014-15 to 2.44% in 2016-17 but has fallen to 2.49% in 2018-19 and further down to 2.15% in this fiscal. The pattern is shown in the chart below. Similarly, the chart also points out the government’s indifference to other schemes such as the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), Mid-Day-Meal, National Social Assistance Programme, and welfare schemes for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Scheme
Initiated in 2001, the Mid-Day Meal scheme is aimed at providing nutritious food for children studying in government and government -aided schools across the country. But, the scheme has not been a priority under the Modi regime. The share of MDM against total expenditure has come down to 0.39% (Rs 11,000 crore allotted) in FY2019-20 from 0.63% in FY2014-15. On the other side, crores of deprived children couldn’t avail any benefits. For instance, in Bihar state alone, of the total 1,80,95,158 students (Class 1-8) enrolled in schools where the scheme is applicable, nearly 41% of them or as many as 73 lakh students were declined benefits under the scheme in Bihar.
Integrated Child Development Services Scheme
Under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme, schemes such as Anganwadi services, National Nutrition Mission, Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, scheme for adolescent girls, National Creche Scheme, Child Protection Services and scheme for welfare of working children in need of care and protection are implemented by the state governments. While the government allotted Rs 2,283 crore more compared to expenditure in FY 2018-19 (Rs 20,951), but the umbrella ICDS scheme share has only declined when compared to the total expenditure, a pattern which has emerged since Modi came to power in 2014, as the chart above depicts.
National Social Assistance Programme
Despite numerous state governments demanding more funds for the implementation of National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) scheme, the issue did not gain the attention of the central government. The scheme presently comprises of Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS), Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS), Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS), National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS) and Annapurna. This year, the government has allocated only Rs 9,200 crore for this scheme, which just Rs 300 crore more than the previous year. But, the scheme's share against total expenditure has gradually declined from 0.43% in 2014-15 to 0.33% in 2019-20.
“The decreased allocation for MGNREGS, core schemes for SC, ST and other vulnerable groups and pension under National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) is a cause for concern,” responded Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. He added that the budget allocations does not reflect the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s speech whohad stated that the budget’s focus is on medium to long-term vision of the government.
Umbrella Schemes for Development/Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
The Budget does not reflect any possibility of change in the situation of SC/STs for availing benefits under the government schemes. Inefficiency of schemes or poor implementation have often been among the concerns of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. However, the government’s short-sightedness towards these sections of people has remained stagnant or may be worsened as reflected in the analysis of the share of the welfare schemes in budget expenditure.
Also read: Union Budget 2019-20: No Shift in Policy Direction
Under the umbrella programme for development of Scheduled Tribes, education scholarships, development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups, Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana, support to tribal research institutes, special central assistance to tribal sub-schemes and grants under Article 275(1) of the Constitution among others, are covered. The share of this category against total expenditure has remained stagnant between 0.23% to 0.25% under the Modi regime.
Similarly, under the umbrella programme for development of Scheduled Castes category, education-related scholarships, SC sub-scheme, strengthening civil rights, schemes for livelihood upliftment and infrastructure development, are included. The government’s apathy towards SCs is reflected by the following numbers. In 2018-19, Rs 7,609 crore was spent under this umbrella scheme (which is 0.31% of total expenditure as per 2018-19 revised estimates), while the amount allocated this year has fallen to only Rs 5,444.5 crore, a mere 0.2% of total allocated expenditure in 2019-20.
Data collation by Peeyush Sharma
Also watch: Budget 2019-20: Where Is Right to Food and MGNREGA?