New Delhi, Feb 28: Activists and experts Thursday said the social measures proposed in the union budget were an eyewash and slammed the government for not taking care of the unorganised sector workers, the elderly and children.
“At a time when millions of unorganised sector workers are bearing the brunt of rising prices and declining wages, the budget brings little consolation for them, in particular the elderly,” activist Aruna Roy said responding to the budget presented by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.
“During the presentation, the sole reference to senior citizens was when Rs.150 crore was allocated for the national programme for healthcare of the elderly to be implemented in 100 districts of 21 states, which includes funding eight geriatric centres.
“For the 1,57,000 elderly, Rs.1.5 crore is the proposed allocation per district, which when translated into per capita per annum terms works out to Rs.95 per elderly,” said labour leader Baba Adhav, who has been leading an agitation for universal pension.
“While corporate honchos were being interviewed by the media on their reactions to budget, there were many workers who were glued to the TV to see if the government in the last year of its term would keep the promises it made when it came to power in 2009, which is to expand social security schemes for workers in unorganised sectors,” Adhav said.
“When the speech began, we were hopeful that some concrete steps will be announced to support unorganised sector workers but our hopes were dashed,” said Sarubai Waghmare, a farm worker from Pune.
Subrat Das, a budget analyst, said the response of the workers was not surprising because what the budget was claiming to do was to merely rehash existing schemes.
“What is worse is that even in the pre-election year, they are continuing to appease unorganised workers with vague promises of bringing together all the existing schemes into a comprehensive social security scheme,” said Das.
Reacting to the additional Rs.10,000 crore allocation for food security, Kavita Srivastva, coordinator of food security campaign, termed the announcements as “peanuts”.
“The budget does not display any seriousness in terms of financial commitment towards implementing the much-touted food security programme. It just shows that the government is not serious about addressing hunger and eliminating malnutrition in the country,” she said.
On allocation for children’s welfare, Puja Marwaha, CEO, CRY (Child Rights and You), said the child budget at percentage of total expenditure stood at 4.63, down from 4.78 percent in 2012-13.
“The magnitude of child budget within the union budget has been around the four percent mark since 2005. It is disconcerting to note the decline in the proposed percentage of total expenditure to 4.63 percent against 4.78 last year. A lot more vision and innovation is called for,” she said.