The Statue Of Liabilities: A Budget Of Blunders And Misplaced Priorities

By Mayank Jain:

The budget of hope, as it was fondly called by the media and especially the party itself, has turned out to be a lukewarm pot of alms and appropriations which look good from far away but a close scrutiny confirms the fact that ‘devil is in the details’.

Picture Credit: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Picture Credit: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Arun Jaitley was in no mood for literary ostentation as he went on demarcating the expenditures and revenue sources with minimal explanation or larger picture references, much like the bullet trains promised by the Railway Minister just two days back. The budget is a great tool to correct what’s wrong and build what’s missing but India needs much more than that. When we were in the need of social change, equitable distribution of resources, public sector spending and fiscal discipline that goes beyond mere words, we got this budget which hardly fulfills any of the above purposes. All Jaitley looks keen on doing with this budget is to focus on taking up ‘challenges’ that weren’t posed to him in the first place and brag about great targets that the government is setting for itself which are ultimately doomed since there are no plans or checks in place. Forget about plans, there are no substantial allocations of funds either in some crucial areas.

Statue of Wastage

What do you do with 2,500 crores to spare in a country of malnourished and impoverished people? You build an iron statue of a national figure which will compete with the Eiffel tower in height and hence provide food for the Indian ego for a long time to come. Because, who needs wheat and rice to fill their stomachs? We are getting a really tall statue in Gujarat. The budget appropriations were going considerably fine until Jaitley appropriated a whole lot of money to the ambitious statue in Gujarat which Narendra Modi promised in his election speeches. Precisely, 200 crores have been appropriated from the current budget but women’s safety had to take a backseat in his list of priorities as only 150 crores got allocated.

Muddled up priorities

The whole cost of this debacle will be more than 2,500 crores and the statue will stand tall as a testimony to our collective stupidity and prodigal wastefulness to turn our prime minister’s reverence into a national liability. Fun Fact: We could do 5 similar Mars missions in the same amount and still be left with money to spare and spend. On women’s safety, this time at least. It is horrific to see the budget full of similar appropriations which are totally reckless in some places including Ganga Restoration Project which will take a bigger chunk of our revenues in this year. 2,037 crores have been allocated in this regard which is an almost 566 per cent increase from the last appropriation made for the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit and Flood Management Programme.

The budget is government’s show of commitment to things which could definitely come much lower in our list of priorities. The 10,000 crores fund for the startups is a welcome move but how do you justify only 100 crores for a sports university and the same amount for training of athletes? Why are we looking at things from a short term point of view? Patching it up with the 100 crores chips is something that our Finance Minister must answer. 100 crores were given to Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Abhiyaan which is clearly not a fair appropriation to something as pervasive as the dwindling sex ratio in the country where a huge population is still marred by dogma and prefers to kill girl child rather than raise them up. A similar fate has been dished out to other important things like e-classrooms or widespread healthcare programs which weren’t announced and only renamed or revived on the UPA’s footsteps and quite unlike the promise of a golden future that the party made in every part of the country.

Statue Of Limitations

The budget is an average one, to be lenient in judgment, and might work well for the economy due to better taxation policy but the fact that government conveniently refrained from giving any timelines for things as important as the Goods and Services Tax proves that there is much hiding in the lines that we haven’t read so far. With no mention whatsoever of much needed reforms, the government played safe and avoided any controversy and removed the possibility of many critical op eds. Progress, however, needs bold steps and more than just Public Private Partnerships which appear to be a solution to everything now.

Till the time we see the next budget, the picture will be clearer and the facts will have settled in the public domain about the utility of the Statue of Unity. Meanwhile, we can only hope that they put solar cells on the statue and at least derive some much needed power while we are busy fulfilling the ambitions of that one man who sold us the ‘development dream’ with money that we save off from bribes.

PS: There was no mention of words like corruption and black money, forget appropriation of money to fix the problems.

Is development too, a state of mind?

To know more about this story and what I think, follow me on Twitter at @mayank1029

 

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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