Opinion: ‘Budget 2020 Is A Step Towards Long-Term Economic Empowerment Of India’

President Ram Nath Kovind on the first day of Budget Session. (Source: PTI)

Budget, an account of the approach of the development planning of the government, has been laid in the parliament of India for the financial year 2020-21. This is a historical period for India because India is vehemently doing away with many of its long-pending decisions.

The assessment of the recent actions taken will take time, but at this point, we witnessed the President of India devoting a whole paragraph about the issues of unrest in India in his presidential address on the eve of the Budget session. The parliament clapped on both the issues for almost one and a half minutes. That gives multiple messages about the future course of actions. Meanwhile, the union government has imbibed the theme of “Care” to give shape to its budget.

The major themes of the budget are targeted towards making India 1. An aspirational 2. Economically developed 3. Caring society. These three pillars appear to be in direct sync with the Human Development perspective. It also challenges the traditional path that India has followed, i.e., of visualising things with the lens of social justice and being a paternalistic nation.

This time, after the LPG of the 1990s, the government has opened the pathway for corporates to come even closer and deeper into the lives of citizens. It has also made paths for youths to get deeply engaged in governance. The final financial management will definitely decide the intensity of the programmes, but the budget must be assessed on the rubrics of subjective principles.

Facilitating Or Rescuing Budget?

The budget is aggressively targeting mobilisation of stakes in the bloodlines of the economy from corporates and international supply chain. It aims to deepen the corporate partnership in education, manufacturing, banking, capital, energy, and transport sector. This huge declination of the government from operation management role and tilt towards regulation is a clear indication of making India more of a capitalist economy.

The government has encashed its trust in the corporate sector to bring the fire in the economy. The fiscal deficit has been compromised by 0.4%, which is a great deal, but yet eligible to be considered conservative. The relaxations in taxation and cleaning the systems by removing the complicating norms is definitely a clear way for the other players to take over. Thus, this budget appears to be more for rescuing Indian economy, and hence, may bring a lot of space for the global economy to fight the deep dearth of consumption.

Where Is The Onus: Import Or Export?

The budget announces faster communication of farm goods through Krishi Udan Scheme and better storage infrastructure to increase the value of produces. Hence, it is clear that the approach of the government is to make the internal market more flooded with local produce, and thus, mitigate the international trade deficit.

India wants global manufacturers to have some breathing time in India by being the assembling hub of global goods. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

Rather than having an ambitious plan of making India a manufacturing hub, for one year, India wants global manufacturers to have some breathing time in India by being the assembling hub of global goods. That means, India recognises its higher-order skill deficit, and to face the challenge of unemployment, this middle path has been harped on. So, overall, India is trying to utilise the global supply chain to put its own things in place. This is a safe path and hence comes with a limited scope of growth.

Perhaps, the jump from the agrarian economy to a service economy is making India pay the price of ignoring the manufacturing aspect. In other words, ‘Make in India‘ needed a neck-support and that is ‘Assemble in India‘. The overall picture seems to be increasing export of services and personnel and a significant increase in import of goods. What India should now do is prepare its human capital to excel on the global technology and focus its import more on the technology rather than importing finished goods.

Subsidised Living Or Earned Living?

The transformation of the base of Indian Taxing System from an exemption in the receipt amount of income has definitely made the tax operation easy. The deduction in tax rates doing away with the jungle of tax-evasion ways is a win-win situation—both for tax enforcement hands of the government and the taxpayers.

Although it has brought some risks like instant retardation of the flow of funds in the social development sector or other donations or investments, now when a systemic erosion of exemptions has been announced, the investor has to know where the money brings the highest returns clearly. Probably, it may bring a kind of greater stability in the mutual fund investment market.

The promotion of MUDRA in SHGs and bringing more liquidity under the increased borrowing limits makes a mark of improvising life through increased economic activities. The aspiration of utilising the barren lands to produce solar energy indicates the direction of invoking subsidies from oils. Overall, what is being sensed is that there is a push to the deeper monetisation of life-processes, and hence, there is a shrinking space for subsidised living.

Is Rural Economy Or Urban Economy The Priority?

The special focus on the mobility of farm produces definitely underlines the priority of the government. These initiatives are in the right direction and are not a mishit in the rally to increase the farmers’. The 16-action point to revitalise the rural economy started with establishing a clear regime of land-leasing. That’s a multi-dynamic approach from decriminalising the society. NCRB report of 2017-18 and 2018-19 say that the biggest cause of murders in politically-sensitive states like Bihar and UP is the Land Dispute. Now, if we fix the land disputes in the great Gangetic Plain, it will definitely increase the production and the well being of the farmers.

The special focus on the mobility of farm produces definitely underlines the priority of the government.

The focus on regulating the processes for entrepreneurs to ensure ease of doing business is definitely a good step. The special mention to boost infrastructure is something very much expected. The five new smart cities, which are announced to be developed are in SEZ, and hence, strategically important.

The emphasis on the necessity of clean air in cities is one of the most serious issues when global warming is set to increase in the next decade. The effects of climate change will be directly decreasing the efficiency of the workforce. In that condition, regardless of the geography, the cold-chain infrastructure will be inevitable for sustained integrity of supply and consumption cycle.

Increased Healthcare Or Infrastructure?

With increasing population, the resources are under tremendous pressure. The livestock, food grain, real estate, textile, healthcare, civil aviation and railway are some of the basic industries having interaction with each life on a daily basis. The intimate relation of disease outbreak, transportation & food industries and the healthcare safety net is something obviously clear. Hence, increasing the safety of livestock and human touch is essential for safer societies, which requires huge investment in the infrastructure of storage and processing of edibles and transportation of human beings.

The budget mentions building the infrastructure as a single point agenda to provide appropriate conditions for development and to take care of health; it plans to intensify the existing structure. To inject new institutions, it has harped on local bodies and the corporates.

Capacity Building Or Firefighting?

The government has decided to inject almost one lakh crores in human resource Development along with skilling. It appears to be a great sum of allocation, but when the huge education system is kept against this allocation, one may not be very impressed. The government realises it very much, and hence, it has pronounced private partnership in Higher Education. The education system is being oriented more towards  quality with good direction, but the divided attention towards research and development in school and colleges is not very much appreciated.

Education in India is basically an affair to be dealt with locally under the purview of Local Bodies. In the independent history somewhere, we have separated the development of the society and education of society members. Those who decide to get into local politics are the ones who leave school first. In last 7 to 8 years, several fellowships like Gandhi Fellowship, SPARC-Swaniti Fellowship, PMRDF, CMGGA, Smart City Fellowship, Aspirational District Fellowship, Swaccha Bharat Prerak Fellowships have proved that the youngsters may also contribute in a radical change in the development dynamics.

This appears to be a base for the government to continue with the ODF Plus, expanding Smart City Mission and opening Urban Local Bodies for engineers to engage in the planning of urban constituencies. The engagement of engineers in local bodies may be taken as a bluff for the rising demand of employment by youths, but the aforementioned fellowships have underlined themselves as a process which empowers the core of the skills of our youngsters. It may be a revolutionary step in providing India with a planned development and may bring confidence in the government to open its three-tier Panchayati Raj system to professional planning with the help of technically-skilled youngsters.

Thus, this budget appears to be normalising the fire and directs its energy for long-term empowerment of the nation; of course, the cost is a temporary loss of gratification.

Join Hands For Care Society

The nation is moving towards serious structural reforms, and the reforms are going to test the clarity of operability of states and local bodies. This approach will definitely bring the glamour of Sensex a bit down, but it will eventually strengthen the federal structure of the nation. It will materialise the concept of direct democracy through the increased role of the institutions of local self-governance. This budget may not have made the day of the profit makers of the corporate world. Still, it has kept economic development at the centre of its approach—both for the institutions and for individuals and strikes a fine balance between the roles of government and private sector. Let us join hands and build a care network…

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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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