Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced an allocation of Rs 28,600 crore for women-related programmes while presenting the union budget for the financial year 2020-2021 on February 1 at the Indian Parliament.
During her budget presentation on Saturday, Nirmala outlined three visionary themes: an aspirational India where everyone enjoys higher standard of living, economic development, and building a caring society that is both ‘humane and compassionate.’
Laying down the budget plans related to women and children under the theme of a caring society, the Finance Minister proposed a task force to expand opportunities in higher education and career for women. She added that such opportunities are vital in lowering Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) and improving nutritional levels. (According to the UNICEF, on an average, 44000 women die in India annually due to pregnancy-related causes. The UN body also says that mothers in India’s lowest income brackets have about two and a half time higher mortality rate.)
Sitharaman added that the entire issue about age of a girl entering motherhood needs to be seen in this light. According to her, the Sharda Act of 1929 was amended in 1978 to raise women’s age of marriage from 15 to 18 in this context.
She further proposed Rs 35600 crores for nutrition-related programmes for the financial year. In 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Poshan Abhiyan Scheme to improve the nutritional status of children (0-6 years), adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers, she reminded.
In this effort, she said that more than six lakh Anganwadi workers were provided smartphones to upload the nutritional status of more than 10 crore households.
The first full-time woman Finance Minister also highlighted the NDA government’s initiatives related to women and children. She said that Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign has yielded tremendous results, citing higher Gross Enrollment Ratio of girls to boys across all levels of education.
“At elementary level, it is 94.32 percent as against 89.28 percent for boys. At Secondary level, it is 81.32 percent as compared to 78 percent. At higher secondary level, girls have achieved a level of 59.70 percent as compared to 57.54 percent for boys,” she added.