Post Budget 2023 Quotes by Mr. Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director, Action Aid Association

 Mr. Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director, Action Aid Association

The announcement to end the oppressing and inhumane practice of manual scavenging with 100% mechanical desludging of septic tanks and sewers in cities from manhole to machine-hole mode is a welcome one, as is the renewed impetus for the development of particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs). Allocation of Rs 15000 crore for developing basic facilities like safe housing, clean drinking water, and improved access to education and health of PVTGs communities is a welcome step to address the needs and futures of PVTGs. The initiative of green growth and transition to net-zero carbon and several focused proposals under that are welcome steps. Among others, these include the national green hydrogen mission, capital investments towards net-zero, PM-PRANAM incentives for mother earth, MISHTI – the Mangrove Initiative, and Amrit Dharovar. The State of Climate in Asia 2021 by the World Meteorological Organization and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). Moreover, a World Bank report suggests that by 2030, India may account for 34 million of the projected 80 million global job losses from heat stress associated with productivity decline. In such a situation, budgetary allocation for a national loss and damage financing facility would have been a game changer. Similarly, the initiative to promote millets in the food security program is a welcome first step that could have gained huge momentum through the additional valuation of such crops in the public procurement system. While the budget has given a big relief to the middle classes, India’s majoritarian working classes need more focus. We may have come out of COVID but the precarity of employment continues. PLFS and other data indicate high levels of employment, particularly among youth, continued precarity, and constrained household consumption. In view of this, informal workers of India expected that MGNREGA allocations would at least, if not more, see an allocation of 2 lakh crores. Instead the allocation has been reduced even further to 60,00 crores, which will reduce employment days available, let alone solve the question of payment of pending wages. India must close the global gap in terms of its social protection expenditure as a percentage of its GDP. India spent only 1.4 percent of its GDP vis-a-vis the global figure of 13 percent in 2020. Only 24.4% of India’s population is covered by at least one social security scheme (excluding healthcare) and 55% are covered under universal health coverage. The investment in agri-tech infrastructure and digitization of PACS are welcome steps and make this budget innovative and creative. However, agriculture is still the largest employer at 46.5% of the workforce and has increased marginally from 2019-20 to 2020-21.