Hollow promises of UPA govt- No effort to raise condition of women

By Sanchit on Sunday, June 20, 2010

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Condition of women in IndiaNEW DELHI: Despite claims made by the UPA towards gender empowerment, nothing could be further from the truth. Under the Congress-led UPA, not only has allocation for women-centric schemes in the Union Budget dropped from 9.2% in 2004-2005 to 3.2% in 2009-2010, but worryingly, gender specific schemes form only 2.4% of the women and child development ministry's total budget.

An analysis of the budgetary allocation by Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA) has revealed that child development schemes form 97.2% of the WCD ministry's budget. The lion's share is taken up by the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) leaving only a measly 2.4% for women-related programmes.

Also, while allocation for the WCD ministry in the Union Budget has increased from Rs 2,454 in 2004-2005 to Rs 7,218 crore in 2009-2010, as a proportion of the Budget, this marks a decline from 9.2% to 3.2% in the same period.

"Priorities for women and children have gone up in absolute numbers but in relative terms, it's a marginal increase and is still abysmally low. So UPA's claims regarding creation of a separate ministry must be taken with a word of caution," Bhumika Jhamb, CBGA's programme officer, said.

The lack of priority given to women shows up in data. According to the `People's Mid-Term Appraisal' by CBGA and Wada Na Todo Abhiyan, health and education indicators are less than heartening. The percentage of married women aged 15-49 years who are anaemic increased to 56.2% in 2005-2006 from 51.8% in 1998-1999. While girls constitute 48.4% of primary enrolment, they also constitute half of the `out of school children' -- three percentage points more than their share in the population -- pointing to gaps in gender-wise provision of education.

As a consequence of poor public facilities and low health status, over 120,000 mothers die due to child birth-related problems every year and shockingly, maternal mortality rate is still over 300 per 1 lakh deliveries. Another indicator of women's condition is that about 35% women in India have experienced physical or sexual violence.

Feminist groups have demanded higher allocation in the budget for women for decades. It is time the government kept its promise.

Article at Times of India