Socio-cultural side of decade’s first budget | Updated: February 02, 2020, 10:31 IST

Union government keeps social, cultural, and environmental needs of India in mine

Addressing the uncertainty among common people about the mobilisation of resources when tax collections have taken a serious hit, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled a series of far reaching reforms in the speech of the decade’s first budget.

While the ​​objective was to boost the Indian economy on the back of physical infrastructure building , the Union Government paid attention to the social, cultural, and environmental needs of the country.

Budget for FY21 revolves around three prominent themes - Aspirational India which aims for a better position in standards of living, health, good jobs and education, Economic Development for all, and Caring Society that is humane and compassionate.

Dwelling on the third scheme i.e. the Caring Society, the FM allocated Rs 35,600 crore, an increase of 22% from last year, for nutrition-related programs for this financial year. A sum of Rs 28,600 crore was proposed to cater programmes relating to women’s welfare.

The Government’s flagship Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao programme has yielded incredible results, which include an increase in the gross enrollment ratio of girls in all levels of education, she reported. Girls’ enrolment rate is 94.32%, 81.32%, and 59.7% in elementary, secondary, and higher secondary level respectively.

“Women are a priority, especially pregnant, and lactating women. 6 lakh anganwadi workers are equipped to upload nutrition status of more than 10 crore households. This scale is unprecedented,” the FM said. She also suggested setting up a task-force to look into the matter of lowering the maternal mortality.

Public health experts call severe malnourishment a silent emergency. According to International Food Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI) Global Hunger Index (GHI), India slipped from 95th position in 2010 to 102nd in 2019. “India’s child wasting rate is extremely high at 20.8%,” the report informed. At 37.9%, India’s child stunting rate is categorised as very high in terms of its public health significance, and just 9.6% of the children between 6 and 23 months of age are fed a minimum accepted diet, according to the index.

Pegging for an inclusive growth, FM has announced that Rs 85,000 crore would be allotted for the betterment of scheduled castes and other backward classes, where as an additional sum of Rs 53,700 crore was proposed for scheduled tribes. Rs 9,500 crore was allocated for the Senior citizens and differently-abled citizens.

In line with the diverse culture of India, an Indian Institute of Heritage and Conservation under the aegis of Ministry of Culture is going to be set up. It was also reported that Rs 2,500 crore and Rs 3,150 have been allocated to the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Culture respectively. The budget has been increased from the previous year.

Big boost for tourism sector was there to be seen in the budget. The plan for developing on-site museums at five archeological sites, namely Rankhigargi [Hrayana], Hastinapur [Uttrar Pradesh], Shivsagar [Assam], Dholavira [Gujarat], and Adichanallur [Tamil Nadu], was announced. A tribal museum in Ranchi was also proposed.

Highlighting improved tourism revenues due to better rank, the FM said, “India had moved from rank 65 in 2014 to 34 in 2019 in the Travel and Tourism Competitive Index by World Economic Forum."

The allocation of budget for the Environment Ministry has been increased from the last fiscal by nearly 5% with no change in amount allotted to pollution abatement and climate change action plan. On environment, states that are formulating and implementing plans to ensure cleaner air in cities with population above one million to be encouraged. Parameters for the incentives to be notified by the Ministry, forest and Climate Change and the allocation for this purpose is Rs 44,000 crore.