Union Budget 2020–21: A Critical Analysis from the Gender Perspective

Gender budgeting is a process of bringing forward a gender perspective at all stages of policymaking. Based on the recommendations of the Gender Budget Charter 2007, the finance ministry takes corrective measures to address gender disparities in terms of allocations for government programmes and schemes annually. This is the first in a two-part article series that deals with what constitutes gender budgeting in India, the gender sensitivity of budgets presented by the centre and the states. 

 

 

Union Budget 2020–21 aims to address the aspirations and hopes of the youth, Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), minorities, and women, who have been in the pursuit of a better life. In her budget speech on 1 February 2020, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the budget was worked out on the basis of a “three-pillar framework,” to attend to aspirational India, accelerate economic development, and work towards building a humane and compassionate society. She also referred to the enhancement of social security in the country by improving the pensionary system and by deepening insurance penetration (Ministry of Finance 2020a).

Prior to the announcement of the budget, budget circular 2020–21, issued on 2 October 2019 by the finance ministry, had sought all ministries and departments to report allocations earmarked for women and girls in their existing schemes in the gender budget statement (GBS) for the budget 2020–21. If necessary, departments concerned had been asked to initiate new programmes and schemes for women. 

In the view of the above, the objectives of this article are: (a) to analyse the extent to which GBS 2020–21 (or, Statement 13) complies with or deviates from the mandated allocations for women and girls mentioned in the budget circular 2020-21; (b) to identify the scope for corrective action while reporting information in the GBS, and to explore ways in which the GBS can be made a useful tool to bridge gender gaps; and (c) to review Budget 2020–21 from a gender perspective in the context of the commitments made by the finance minister, especially regarding the promise of compassion in the society.  

The article is organised as follows: the first section briefly explains what is meant by gender budgeting. It then discusses the extent to which ministries and departments have complied with the budget circular 2020–21. The next section analyses the allocations reported in Parts A and B of the GBS, and then reviews the allocations reported in it by the rural development department, as an example. The purpose is to try and illustrate ways to increase the accuracy of what has been reported in the latest GBS. The next section explains why the GBS is flawed, and it then clarifies that to make the GBS meaningful, the process used for reporting estimates has to change. The next section reviews the three-pillar strategy, espoused by the finance minister, on which budget 2020–21 is based from a gender perspective. Finally, the last section provides a conclusion and a way forward to ensure that gender perspective is taken into account during the preparation of budgetary estimates.    

Gender Budgeting

Gender budgeting is a process of bringing forward a gender perspective at all stages of policymaking. This includes the employment of a gender lens in the formulation of legislation, policies, plans, programmes and schemes, allocation and collection of resources, implementation, monitoring, audit and impact assessment of programmes and schemes, and corrective action to address gender disparities. It is far from just reporting information in the format provided for the GBS. It uses the budget as one of many entry points to correct gender gaps, but it is not limited to the budget statement. Rather, it is a continuum or an ongoing process of applying a gender lens at all stages of policymaking—before, during, and after the passage of the budget.   

Every year, a few months before the preparation of the annual budget, the Ministry of Finance issues a budget circular. This is usually issued to various departments in September or early October, and contains formats, circulars, guidelines, timelines, etc., for submitting information to the Budget division of the Finance Ministry. Budget statements are prepared on the basis of the information furnished by the ministries or departments. One of these statements is GBS. In order to prepare GBS, budget circular seeks ministries and departments to highlight the quantum of public expenditure they have earmarked for women for the upcoming year. 

When the GBS was first introduced in the union budget 2005–06, it was called Statement 19. From 2006–07 to 2016–17 budget, it was called Statement 20. Since budget 2017–18, it is known as Statement 13. The GBS gets a lot of attention because it is included in the main budget, and it is tabled in Parliament.

The budget circular requires ministries and departments to highlight the quantum of public expenditure earmarked for (a) programmes with 100% provision for women in the Part A of the GBS, and (b) between 30% and 99% provision for women in the Part B. What differentiates budget circular 2020–21 from the earlier ones is that it clearly stipulates that all sectors and departments have an impact on the lives of women and girls. It uses the term “compulsory allocations” for gender budgeting, and requires that they are reported under the Statement 13 of the expenditure profile 2020–21. It also requires that all ministries and departments “strictly” follow the instructions issued by the secretary of the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) in this regard. It mentions that the “process of budget planning and preparation provides a critical opportunity to identify, prioritise, and address gender concerns in all ministries/departments” (Ministry of Finance 2019), and provides a scope for making existing schemes and programmes more gender-responsive, or for formulating new programmes.

Gender Budget 2020–21 Allocations

The allocations reported in the gender budget in the last three years are presented in Table 1. The total allocation for the gender budget in 2020-21 has been Rs 1,43,461.72 crore, of which Rs 28,568.32 crore has been reported in Part A and Rs 1,14,893.40 crore in Part B. The share of gender budget as a percentage of total budgetary expenditure has been 4.98% in 2018–19 (actuals), 4.91% in 2019–20 (budget estimates), 5.29% in 2019–20 (revised estimates), and only 4.72% in 2020–21 (budget estimates). Over the last 15 years, the size of gender budget has remained below 5%, with a few exceptions.

 

Table 1: Allocations Reported in Gender Budget in Rs. Crores and as a Percentage of Total Expenditure

Item 2018–19 Actuals 2019–20 Budget estimates 2019–20 Revised estimates 2020–21 Budget estimates
Total budgetary allocation to women-specific schemes or Part A of the GBS 24,440.07 27,420.03 29,473.52 28,568.32
Total budgetary allocation to women-centric schemes or Part of the GBS 90,766.54 10,9514.07 1,13,339.78 1,14,893.40
Gender budget (Part A+B) 1,15,206.61 1,36,934.10 1,42,813.30 1,43,461.72
Total expenditure 23,15,113 27,86,349 26,98,552 30,42,230
Gender budget as a percentage of total budgetary expenditure 4.98 4.91 5.29 4.72

     Source: Ministry of Finance, Budget 2020– 21.

To suggest, based on what is reported by the ministries in the GBS, that only 5% of the total budgetary expenditure in India or less benefits women and girls is incorrect. Yet, this inaccurate reporting persists due to several reasons, which will be discussed at length in the latter sections of the article. However, primarily, the two most important reasons for inaccurate reporting are, one, several programmes that benefit women and girls are simply not reported in the GBS. Second, inadequate efforts have been made to understand the gender dimensions of government programmes, and to bridge gender gaps by the departments, prior to the reporting in the GBS.

For this, every ministry needs to answer six questions based on the framework listed in Box 1 below, so as to understand the needs and priorities of women, especially those who are poor. It enables ministries to plan what they can do in that year and in the long-term to meet those priorities, and hence, bridge gender gaps.

 

Box 1

  1.  What are the goals and objectives that our ministry/department seeks to achieve? How do they contribute to the larger national goal of achieving gender equality?
  2.  What are the needs and priorities of women, especially those who are poor and fall under our ministry/department’s domain of work?
  3. Are these presently included and addressed in the ministry/department’s policies, plans, programmes, and schemes?
  4. What activities the ministry/department should undertake this year to reduce gender gaps?
  5. What are the difficulties the ministry/department face in enabling its services to reach women and girls?
  6. How are the above challenges addressed?

        Source: MWCD Handbook of Gender Budgeting 2015.

 

Participatory planning and budgeting ensure that women’s priorities are given importance. For instance, in villages where there are deep-seated cultural barriers that prevent women from raising their concerns during a Gram Sabha, a short-term solution, while we wait for a change in attitudes, is to hold a Mahila Sabha (women’s meeting) prior to the Gram Sabha to ensure women’s priorities are included in the plans.
The five-step framework developed by Debbie Budlender is one of the many tools for gender budgeting. It consists of: (a) understanding gender gaps (b) to see if policy addresses them (c) to assess if budgetary allocations are adequate (d) to review the expenditure of the last few years and (e) to examine if the situation has changed over time.

On the other hand, spatial mapping is also of great importance. It tells us how provisioning is spread across a state, district, block, and even panchayat. For instance, if a gram panchayat has a population of 5,000, it should have five to six Anganwadi centres (AWCs). Despite universal entitlement, the number of AWCs falls short of norms. Spatial mapping helps us to know such things. Additionally, it tells us whether or not the AWCs are located in the poorer habitations of a panchayat. 

Another tool to ensure women’s participation in the budget preparation process is the use of gender-sensitive checklists, developed by the MWCD. There are three parts to this: planning and budgeting; performance audit, and future planning and corrective action. If ministries can adhere to the above guidelines, the reporting of allocations in GBS becomes more accurate.  

Budget Circular and Gender Budget Statement 2020–21: Compliance and Deviations

There are more than 70 ministries/departments that draw grants from the government. Of the 70 ministries, 57 of them have gender budget cells. But, only 34 ministries/departments have reported allocations in the GBS 2020–21.    

  •   18 ministries/departments have reported allocations in Part A of the GBS 2020–21. Six of the 18 have reported allocations only in Part A.

  •   28 ministries/departments have reported allocations in Part B of the GBS 2020-21. Of them, 16 have reported only in Part B.

  •   12 ministries/ departments have reported allocations in both Parts A and B (see Table 2).

Table 2: Ministries/Departments and the Reporting for the Gender Budget Statement

Part A 1. Department of Agricultural Research and Education
2. Law and Justice
3. Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises
4. Ministry of Railways
5. Ministry of Road Transport and Highways
6. Department of Science and Technology
Part B 1. Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers' Welfare
2. Atomic Energy
 3. Ministry of Culture
4. Ministry of Earth Sciences
5. Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology
6. Department of Fisheries
7. Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying
8. Department of Health and Family Welfare
9. Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs
10. Ministry of Labour and Employment
11. Ministry of New and Renewable Energy
12. Department of Social Justice and Empowerment
13. Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities
14. Ministry of Textiles
15. Ministry of Tribal Affairs
16. Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports
Part A and B 1. Ministry of AYUSH
2. Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region
3. Ministry of External Affairs
4. Department of Health Research
5. Police
6. Department of School Education and Literacy
7. Department of Higher Education
8. Ministry of Minority Affairs
9. Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas
10. Department of Rural Development
11. Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship
12. Ministry of Women and Child Development

 

On the other hand, more than half of the total number of ministries/ departments did not comply with the directions of the Finance Ministry regarding the reporting of information (see Table 3). These include commerce, posts, telecom, consumer affairs, corporate affairs, finance, defence, parliamentary affairs, and panchayati raj ministries. However, some of the above ministries/departments had reported in GBS in the past.   

For instance, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj reported allocations in Part B of the GBS from 2008–09 for schemes, such as Panchayat Mahila Evam Yuva Shakti Abhiyan and Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Yojna, which were subsequently subsumed into the Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Sashaktikaran Abhiyan in 2012–13 and continued till 2016–17. It also reported large allocations for the Backward Regions Grants Fund in 2013–14 and 2014–15. However, it has not reported any allocations for women in either Part A or B since budget 2017–18. The Panchayati Raj ministry implements a centrally sponsored scheme called Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan since 2018, and allocations of which have not been reported either in Part A or Part B of the GBS. 

Table 3: Ministries/ Departments That Failed to Report Allocations in the GBS

1. Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals

2. Department of Fertilisers

3. Department of Pharmaceuticals

4. Ministry of Civil Aviation

5. Ministry of Coal

6. Department of Commerce

7. Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade

8. Department of Posts

9. Department of Telecommunications

10. Department of Consumer Affairs

11. Department of Food and Public Distribution

12. Ministry of Corporate Affairs

13. Ministry of Defence (Civil)

14. Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change

15. Department of Economic Affairs

16. Department of Expenditure

17. Department of Financial Services

18. Department of Investment and Public Asset Management

19. Department of Revenue

20. Ministry of Food Processing Industries

 

21. Department of Heavy Industry

22. Department of Public Enterprises

23. Ministry of Home Affairs

24. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting

25. Department of Water Resources, River

Development and Ganga Rejuvenation

26. Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation

27. Ministry of Mines

28. Ministry of Panchayati Raj

 29. Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs

30. Ministry of Planning

31. Ministry of Power

32. Department of Land Resources

33. Department of Biotechnology

34. Department of Scientific and Industrial Research

35. Ministry of Shipping

36. Department of Space

37. Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation

38. Ministry of Steel

39. Ministry of Tourism

 

 

Gender Budget Statement 2020–21: A Critical Outlook  

As mentioned above, only 18 ministries/departments have reported allocations in Part A and 28 in Part B in budget estimates 2020–21. However, just four of them, namely, the Department of Rural Development, MWCD, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, and Police, account for as much as 96% of the estimates reported in the Part A of the GBS (Table 4).

In Part B of the GBS too, just four ministries/departments account for 75% of the allocations that have been made for women. These are the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Department of Rural Development, Department of School Education and Literacy, and MWCD (see Table 3).

Table 4: Ministries/Departments with the Largest Budgetary Allocations

Ministry/Department

 

Allocation to Women-specific schemes (in 2020–21) Budget Estimates

Percentage of Budgetary Allocation to Part A of the GBS
Women-specific schemes (Part A)    
Department of Rural Development 21,437.79 75.0
Ministry of Women and Child Development 3,919.00 13.7
Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas 1,118.00 3.9
Police 1,004.07 3.5
Others 1,089.46 3.8
Total budgetary allocation to women-specific schemes or Part A of the GBS 28,568.32 100.0
Pro-women schemes (Part B)    
Department of Health and Family Welfare 27,271.27 23.74
Department of Rural Development 25,110.90 21.86
Department of School Education and Literacy  17,636.10 15.35
Ministry of Women and Child Development 16,790.52 14.61
Others 28,084.61 24.44
Total Budgetary Allocation to Pro-women Schemes or Part B of the GBS 1,14,893.40 100.0

 

                Source: Gender Budget Statement 2020–21

Enhancing Reporting System: Rural Development Department, a Case in Point

The Rural Development department is the largest contributor to the budgetary estimates reported in the gender budget 2020–21. One-third of the value of the total gender budget, comprising both Parts A and B, is reported by the department. The department accounts for 75% of the total budgetary allocations reported in Part A, and 21.86% of the total budgetary allocations reported in Part B of the GBS 2020–21. The department reports only two budget heads in the Part A and two in the Part B (see Table 5 below). 

Table 5: Estimates Reported by the Rural Development Department in the Gender Budget (Rs. in crores)

 

Department of Rural Development — Gender Budget Heads

2018–19 Actuals 

2019–20 Budget Estimates  2019–20 Revised Estimates 2020–21 Budget Estimates
Part A: 100% Women-specific programmes 24,440.07 27,420.03 29,473.52 28,568.32
Total Department of Rural Development Part A 21,041.60 19,000.00 20,412.72 21,437.79
1. Rural Housing (Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana) 19,307.95 19,000.00 18,475.00 19,500.00
2. Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme 1,733.65 .... 1,937.72 1,937.79
Part B: 30% to less than 100% women-specific programmes 90,766.54 1,09,514.07 1,13,339.78 1,14,893.40
Total Department of Rural Development Part B 23,496.76 24,512.00 28,179.27 25,110.90
1. National Rural Livelihood Mission—Aajeevika 2,891.74 4,512.00 4,512.00 4,610.90
2. Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) 20,605.02 20,000.00 23,667.27 20,500.00
Total Gender Budget  1,15,206.61 1,36,934.10 1,42,813.30 1,43,461.72

                    Source: Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India

 

As much as 90% of the amount reported by the Rural Development department for 100% women-specific allocations is allocated to the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (PMAY). However, reporting the entire amount of Rs 19,500 crore budgeted for PMAY houses in the Part A of the GBS is inaccurate for two reasons. First, the PMAY houses are often jointly held by husband and wife, so to include them in the Part A of the GBS is incorrect. This should be reported in Part B of the GBS. 

Second, the Rs 19,500 crore includes Rs 2,800 crore for interest payment to the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) for loans (Table 6). This cannot be regarded as an allocation that benefits women, and so it should not be reported in the GBS.

Table 6: Budget Estimates for Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) – Rural

 

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY)—Rural Rs. crore
PMAY—Programme Component 16,600.00
Interest Subsidy  100.00
Interest Payment to NABARD for effective benchmark lending rate (EBR) Loans 2,800.00
PMAY—Rural (Total) 19,500.00

                       Source: Ministry of Finance Budget 2020–21

 

While the Rural Development department correctly reports budget estimates of Rs 1,937.79 crore for the Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension scheme in Part A, however, it does not report other payments that benefit women and are also part of the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP). For instance, a large proportion of the Rs 6, 259 crore allocated to pensions for women senior citizens under the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme benefits women, but is not reported by the rural development department in Part B of the GBS. As 48.5% of those getting old-age pension are women, approximately Rs 3,038 crore (or 48.5% of Rs 6,259 crore) should be reported in the GBS in Part B. 

On the other hand, the amount paid as old-age pension increases from Rs 200 per month to Rs 500 per month for those above 80 years. As the life expectancy of women is higher than men, the share of women in pensions paid to beneficiaries above 80 may increase. Hence, administrative data can be used to refine this estimate further, based on the share of women among those above the age of 80 who receive a pension, as this data is not available in the public domain.  
 
Similarly, amounts paid to women under the Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme and the National Family Benefit Scheme should be reported in the GBS Part B as well. Further, while the “caring-society pillar” rightly mentions social security through pensions and insurance, an allocation of just Rs 200 per month as the old-age pension does not meet the minimum amount required to be classified as either “compassionate” or “humane,” which the finance minister referred to in her budget speech.

Two budget heads, National Rural Livelihood Mission—Aajeevika (NRLM) and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), have been reported in Part B of the GBS. NRLM includes schemes, such as the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya—Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) and Rural Self Employment Training Institute (RSETI), that provide skill development training to boys and girls. Hence, NRLM is correctly reported in Part B of the GBS. The budget estimate reported for NRLM is ₹ 4,610.90 crore or around 50% of the total demand for the grant of Rs 9,210.04 crore. However, more than 50% should be reported in the GBS since the bulk of the benefits of NRLM are for women and girls. It would be useful if the information regarding allocations for girls trained under DDU–GKY and RSETI is reported separately in the GBS, so that the reach of the programmes and their ability to provide jobs through DDU–GKY and self-employment work through RSETI can be tracked.

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) workers have been provided with skills through Project UNNATI to enable them to move up the ladder in terms of skills. The allocations for women under this could be reported separately as well. In the context of MGNREGS, the ministry reports one-third of the total budget in Part B of the GBS. However, the available data on the MGNREGS website shows that women workers account for around 55% of the total person-days of work under the scheme (see Table 7).

Table 7: Share of Women in the Total Person-days (%)

  2019–20 2018–19 2017–18 2016–17 2015–16
Share of women in the total person-days (%) 54.78 54.58 53.53 56.16 55.26

                         Source: Ministry of Rural Development website (as on 28 February 2020) 

Based on the principle that at least one-third of the total person-days under MGNREGS should be women, out of the ₹ 60,000 crore budgeted for MGNREGS in 2019–20, the rural development department reported only Rs 20,000 crore in Part B of the GBS. Applying the same principle, out of the revised estimate of Rs 71,001.81 crore for MGNREGS for  2019–20 budget, the department reported a revised estimate of Rs 23,667.27 crore for this head in Part B of the GBS. However, this is inaccurate as the data on the MGNREGS website shows that 54.78% of person-days were women. Hence, 54.78 % of Rs 71,001.81 crore (or Rs 38,895 crore) should be reported in the GBS Part B, instead of Rs 23,667.27 crore. Since 55% of person-days in MGNREGS have been contributed by women for several years, it could be more accurate for the department to revise the budget estimate for MGNREGS in the GBS 2020–21 from Rs 20,500 crore to Rs 33,825 crore.

Inadequate Allocations: Caring Society?

The second highest budgetary allocation in Part A of the GBS is Rs 3,919 crore for the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Around 64% of this or Rs 2,500 crore is for pregnant women under the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY). There have been complaints of low coverage in terms of beneficiaries under PMMVY. For instance, Jagriti Chandra (2020) cites a right to information (RTI) application, filed by Ritika Khera, Jean Dreze and Anmol Somanchi, which shows that only “38.3 lakh women, or 61% of the 62.8 lakh beneficiaries registered under the PMMVY between April 2018 and July 2019 received the full amount of Rs 5,000 promised under the scheme.” 

Referring to the above RTI application, Chandra notes: 

“the scheme failed to reach at least 49% of the total 123 lakh mothers who are estimated to have given birth to their first child and, therefore, it was able to benefit only 31% of its intended beneficiaries. Worse, the economists contend since the total number of births in 2017 was 270.5 lakh, the number of births covered stands at 23% of the total number of child births that year, and proportion of those who actually received the cash benefit is a paltry 14%.” (Chandra 2020)

Clearly, the allocations to PMMVY need to be substantially higher if the scheme aims to reach all those for whom it is intended. However, allocations alone are not enough. Following up to ensure that women who are entitled to benefit from the scheme are aware of it, for the scheme to be successful. 

Apart from the four ministries/departments mentioned above, the allocations reported by other 14 ministries/ departments in Part A of the GBS are minuscule and together account for 3.8% of the total.

Unspent Budgets and Reduction in Allocations

The amounts budgeted for police for the safety of women under the Nirbhaya fund show a decline relative to the budget estimates of 2019–20. The decision to reduce this allocation may have been determined by the unspent amounts of Rs 40 crore in the revised estimates of 2019–20. The reasons for the inability to spend allocated amounts need to be investigated, especially in the light of continued violence against women, threatening their safety and compromising their security.   

The allocations by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship for women-specific schemes have decreased to the tune of Rs 107 crore between budget estimates of 2019–20 and 2020–21. This is a cause for concern, and the challenges faced by the ministry need to be explored and addressed. 

Similarly, the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment was unable to spend Rs 93 crore allocated in the budget estimates of 2019–20 for hostels meant for girls from SC households. Similarly, MWCD was unable to spend Rs 120 crore out of Rs 165 crore allocated towards the benefit of working women’s hostels in the budget estimates of 2019–20. Given the safety concerns, there is a dire need for girls’ hostels to enable them to study, and to provide safe residential facilities for working women. Hence, the reasons for these unspent balances need to be addressed.  

In addition to the unspent balances in Beti Bachao Beti Padhao and working women’s hostels’ scheme, MWCD has unspent balances to the tune of Rs 150 crore in the Scheme for Adolescent Girls, Rs 100 crore in the allocations for Mahila Shakti Kendra, Rs 70 crore in one-stop crisis centres, and Rs 15 crore in Swadhar Greh scheme. The allocations made for such facilities are important to combat violence against women, and serious efforts should be made to ensure that funds under these heads are utilised effectively.  The total unspent balance with MWCD in revised estimates of 2019–20 has been Rs 667 crore.

Reinventing Gender Budget Statement

While GBS has successfully drawn attention to the budgetary allocations by ministries/departments for schemes that benefit women, it has several flaws that need to be addressed. A few of these are outlined below. 

There have been errors in reporting demand-for-grants in both Part A and Part B of the GBS. Misreporting has been occurring because the time given to ministries/departments to report information for the GBS is limited. Several programmes and schemes listed in Part B of the GBS simply report a flat 30%, 40%, or 50% of the total allocations. The preparation of the gender budget statement for the union budget largely remains an ex post exercise. Most of the ministries/departments provide information on their schemes for reporting in the GBS after allocations for schemes have been made. The assumptions made by ministries/departments while apportioning funds to Part B of the statement remain unclear. There have also been problems of disaggregating allocations between men and women. Not all allocations for women that constitute 30% or more of the provisioned amount is necessarily reported in the GBS. There are several schemes in which allocations for women constitute less than 30% of the provisioned amount. These issues are ignored in the GBS. It is erroneous to argue that only 5% or 6% of the budget reaches women (Das and Mishra 2006; Parvati et al 2012; Mishra and Sinha 2012; Mehta 2013).

Rectifying Flaws in the Gender Budget Statement

In order to rectify flaws in the GBS and to make it meaningful, the process used for determining and reporting the estimates needs to change. At the outset, each ministry/department must answer the questions listed in Box 1.  

The estimates of budgetary allocations for women and girls should be based on a roadmap prepared by each ministry/department, which shows how they plan to meet gender needs and bridge existing gender gaps. This will convert the GBS from being a casually-reported ex-post statement to a document that is used on a continuous basis to transform the lives of women and girls in each department’s domain of work, by enabling government services to reach them. 

In particular, ministries/departments which deliver infrastructure facilities, such as roads, consider their services to be gender-neutral and do not know why and how to report in the GBS. However, it is important to draw attention to the fact that with a little thought the same facilities could become far more useful for the less privileged. For instance, while major roads and highways are primarily used by fast-moving vehicular traffic, pedestrians also use them, and often find it difficult to cross them. In such a scenario, building and maintaining well-lit subways and foot-over bridges would reduce accidents. Similarly, rest areas could be developed at multiple points along arterial roads and highways.

On the other hand, spaces could be created in hospitals where women (and men) can stay, rest, and sleep while waiting for their turn as patients and caregivers if they cannot afford hotels. Similarly, safe working women’s hostels, spaces in markets where they can sell their produce, pavements on the roads so that the old or physically-challenged do not have to negotiate potholes or rubble, rest areas on railway platforms, etc., are among a few examples of gender-sensitive planning and budgeting in terms of infrastructure. It is also important to ensure that the existing infrastructure is well-maintained and made functional. For instance, a large number of public toilets are built across the country every year but ensuring sustainable functionality is critical to prevent them from going into a state of disrepair. The expenditure for these facilities could be reported in the GBS, as they contribute towards achieving a caring and a humane society. 

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