New India Budget 2018- What is in it for women professionals?

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A new budget for new India. Let’s see how.

Our Finance Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley presented this budget today on 1st February 2018. As he was presenting this budget, the social media was full of tweets, posts and different perspectives. While few are calling this a Pakoda Budget, few are naming it a budget of foresight. Soon after the Budget speech finished, our Prime Minister, Mr.  Modi addressed the nation through a live Facebook feed and congratulated Mr. Jaitley on presenting a budget which will prove to be a foundation for New India. He mentioned that this budget will definitely strengthen the hopes and expectations of India. This budget expands from Agriculture to Infrastructure, From Health schemes for the lower middle class to wealth schemes for MSME’s. , From Digital India to Startup India. He exclaimed that this budget is Common Man friendly, Farmer Friendly, Business Environment-Friendly and also Development Friendly.

Few Highlights of the budget are:

  • Sectoral allocations
  • Key sectoral Announcements

For women?

  • For Food processing industry total of 1400 crore budget is allocated. Under the farmer-producer organization scheme, the Women self-help groups in small villages will be involved to produce aromatic, herbal and organic plants to contribute to the growth of overall agricultural production. This will be part of Operation Greens under which farmers producing vegetables and fruits will be benefitted. The women self-help groups get to be a part of it. Does it help Self-help groups monetarily? Does it help to make these groups more empowered? Do they receive any special aid like a special concession on loans or better rates for their produce? That’s a question.
  • Under the Ujjawala scheme, now 8 crore women will get free gas connections, this is a benefit for the whole family, not just women. This will definitely benefit the Below Poverty Line segment of society if we assume a non-corrupt administration. A budget of 1 lakh crore is allocated for this scheme. The benefit of this scheme will be seen as per its implementation.
  • Newly employed female employees will have to make EPF contribution of 8% instead of 12% for the first three years of employment and the contribution of the employer will remain 12%. PM Modi said this step is towards more and more woman employment and empowerment. I do not understand how? Lesser PF contribution will give her a 3% hike in her take-home salary for first three years. Does this ensure better employment opportunities and empowerment for women?

Apart from these three: the tax rebate of 5% on MSME’s might benefit women entrepreneurs who are running small businesses. Earlier they were paying 30% tax now the need to pay 25%, this is not a women-specific scheme.

Rs 3 Crore to lend under Mudraa Yojana is not a women-specific scheme, but as per the tweet of Amit Shah, this will especially benefit women given that 76% of loans given so far are to women.

This data itself tells that women are coming up in bigger number to get self-employed and are running small businesses from home. They contribute to the MSME economy more than men so they deserve better budget allocation, especially for women. The new budget missed this.

 

This budget is not a wholesome budget, though PM Modi clearly mentions in his post Budget speech that the budget is to strengthen the weaker section of societies like Dalit, ST, BPL, Lower middle-class segment and women. The budget is not a forward-looking budget for women. This budget is a boom for agriculturists and will surely benefit the women in “easy living” as suggested again and again, but definitely not an “Empowering” budget.

What could have been better?

  • Special schemes for providing higher education/training/coaching to women for leadership positions.
  • Easy loan schemes and subsidy schemes for women-led businesses.
  • Special budget allocation for women entrepreneurs who are contributing majorly in Make in India movement.
  • Investment schemes for women self-help groups and registered communities to make women financially independent.
  • Apart from 1.5 lakh New Wellness Centres to be established, at least 1 lakh Govt funded self-defense training centres and 50000 special centers for rape victims or a separate budget allocation for this facility to be made available in every wellness centre.
  • For 10 crore families receiving free treatment of up to rupees 5 lakhs, also including Pre Natal and Post-natal medical expenses.

Keeping in mind that one of the major agenda of BJP manifesto was Woman empowerment and woman safety, these points should definitely have been the part of our budget this time.

The major steps taken for the bigger vote bank the farmers and agriculturists is really praiseworthy, but can we call this budget a woman empowering budget? The answer is No.

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