New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley delivered his last budget speech before the country goes to polls in 2019. In an over one hour speech, the minister mentioned ‘women’ 11 times and announced allocations to schemes, with focus on women’s participation in the same.
He proposed extending the Ujjwala Scheme to 8 crore poor women. “Prime Minister had launched the Ujjwala Scheme to make poor women free from smoke. Initially our target was to provide free LPG connections to about 5 crore poor women. But in view of the pace of implementation of Ujjwala scheme and its popularity among the women, we propose to increase the target of providing free connection to 8 crore poor women,” he said.
He further said that Women Self Groups (SHGs) will also be encouraged to take up organic agriculture under the National Rural Livelihood Programme. The finance minister also said that loans to SHGs of women increased to about Rs 42,500 crore in 2016-17, growing 37% over the previous year. The government is confident that loans to SHGs will increase to Rs 75,000 crore by March, 2019. He further proposed to increase the allocation of National Rural Livelihood Mission to 5750 crore in 2018-19.
Speaking on the MUDRA Yojana that was launched in April, 2015, Jaitley said that it had led to sanction of 4.6 lakh crore in credit from 10.38 crore MUDRA loans, out of which 76% of loan accounts are of women and more than 50% belong to SCs, STs and OBCs. He further proposed to set a target of Rs 3 lakh crore for lending under MUDRA for 2018-19 after having successfully exceeded the targets in all previous years.
The finance minister also, to incentivise employment of more women in the formal sector and to enable them higher take-home wages, proposed to make amendments in the Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952. He reduced women employees’ contribution to 8% for first three years of their employment against existing rate of 12% or 10% with no change in employers’ contribution.
Allocation To Ministry Of Women And Child Development
Jaitley announced Rs 24,700 crore for the ministry for the year 2018-19, an increase of around 11.78% from 2017-18 which stood at Rs 22,095 crore. Allocation to centrally sponsored schemes increased from Rs 21,844 crore to Rs 24,454 crore. While there has been an increase in allocation to the WCD ministry, it has been abysmal compared to last year. The allocation to the Ministry of Women and Child Development had increased from Rs 17,408 crore during 2016-17 to Rs 22,095 crore in 2017-18, which is a jump of more than 25%. This year, the increase has just been a mere 11.78%.
The finance minister did not make any change in the allocation to Nirbhaya Funds, which still stands at Rs 500 crore. National Nutrition Mission’s allocation was doubled from Rs 1500 crore to Rs 3000 crore. The finance minister raised allocation for schemes for adolescent girls from Rs 460 crore to Rs 500 crore.
For anganwadi services, the finance minister raised allocation to Rs 16,335 crore from Rs 15,425 crore in 2017-18. However, the allocation to Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana was lowered from Rs 2,700 crore to Rs 2,400 crore.