India’s 2019Union Budget was presented in the Parliament on 5th July, 2019 by the Union Finance Minister (FM), Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman. Ms. Sitharaman is the second woman to present the budget after Mrs. Indira Gandhi and is India’s first full-time woman Finance Minister.

Ms. Sitharaman carried the budget in a red cloth with the emblem in the middle and held together by a ribbon, traditionally called ‘Bahi-Khata’, breaking the years old tradition of using a leather briefcase.

The Union Budget of India is termed as the Annual Financial Statement under Article 112 of the Constitution of India and is presented annually. The budget focusses on the needs of women entrepreneurs and emphasizes the importance of wholesome participation by women, especially from rural background, to change the face of the economy.

The Finance Minister highlighted some of the aspects of the Union Budget that would benefit women and propel them to partake in building a more robust economy:

  • All the verified members of an SHG (Self-Help Group) who have a Jan Dhan Bank Account in their name, would receive ₹ 5,000, in addition to their savings.
  • Atleast one woman from every SHG will be able to take a loan upto ₹ 1,00,000 under the MUDRA scheme. Seventy percent of the beneficiaries of the MUDRA scheme are women. Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana (PMMY) is a scheme which was launched by the Prime Minister in 2015 to provide loans upto ₹ 10 lakh to the small or micro enterprises that are non-corporate.
  • The allocation of budget to the Ministry of Women and Child Development witnessed a swell of 17.7% this fiscal year along with a conspicuous hike in child protection services and working women hostels.
  • ₹ 500 crore have been doled out to the Nirbhaya Fund for schemes on protection of women. The Nirbhaya Fund was first announced in the Union Budget of 2013 by the then Finance Minister, Mr. P. Chidambaram, to support various NGOs and government-led initiatives that work to achieve safety of women in India.
  • Expansion of the Women SHG Interest Subvention Programme to all districts was also promised in the budget. It was noted by the FM that two big initiatives of the Government, namely Ujjwala Yojana and Saubhagya Yojana, have brought drastic changes in the lives of rural women.
  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, a maternity benefit scheme, saw huge increase of 108% in budgetary allocation.
  • The Mission for Protection and Empowerment for Women, which includes all social reforms for care and development of women, saw an enhancement of ₹ 1,330 crore in budgetary allocation.
  • The concept of gender budgeting, which is a tool for attaining gender mainstreaming to ensure that women get equal benefits from development of the nation, was brought in by the FM. Gender Budgeting would provide a gender perspective or a view from the gender lens in evaluating and reviewing various policies or schemes of budgetary allocation.
  • The need for a shift from women-centric to women-led initiatives was also asserted by the FM. She proposed to form a committee that would analyse and recommend plans to strive forward in achieving fuller contribution from women.

The sterling role that Indian women have played in changing the socio-economic dynamics of the country is an exemplary demonstration of what women are capable of achieving as leaders through active participation in the economy. The 17th Lok Sabha comprises of 78 women parliamentarians, which is the highest number of women being represented in Parliament in the history of India. This, itself, speaks volumes about women making a mark for themselves in politics. With effective implementation of the budget, India’s growth story can be loud enough with the voices of more women in it.

This article has been authored by Jaya Mitra