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Govt of India's public investment in infrastructure that empowers women is declining: UN Women study

By Our Representative
Sharply criticizing the Government of India for the “withdrawal of the state from the public sphere, especially that pertaining to where the majority of Indians and especially women live and labour”, a UN Women-sponsored study says that there has been “declining investment in public provisioning of… goods and services that have a direct impact on … unpaid and paid work of women.”
Especially referring to the provisioning of basic infrastructural facilities that would empower women, the study, still in its draft form, “Invisible Work, Invisible Workers”, says, while there was “a dramatic boost in budget allocations, women specific allocation as percentage of total he Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) budget has fallen from 27.85% in 2014-15 to a pathetic 2.47 today.”
The same is true of water. Thus, study, which contains spot surveys in three states – Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Telangana – by Action Aid, says, “Allocations for Swacch Bharat Abhiyan have exceeded that for National Rural Drinking Water Policy (NRDWP), reflecting a clear shift in State priorities and an increasing and worrying disconnect between water and sanitation.”
Similarly, the study says, as for budgetary allocation for care services, the implementation of the Maternity Benefit Act, for instance, “appears to have been an utter failure throughout the country, with only 35,035 women benefitting a total of Rs 60.63 crore”, with “regional implementation virtually non-existent: It was “Maharashtra Rs 28 crore to 2078 women, Telangana Rs 3 crore to 604 women, and Uttarakhand Rs. 0.02 crore to 2 women.”
Further says the study, the Central allocation of Rs 2,700 crore in 2017-18 for the Maternity Benefit Programme (MBP), formerly Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahayog Yojana, “found insufficient for the estimated 53 lakhs beneficiaries and hence eligibility has been restricted to one child”, underlining, “What this implies for the future child sex ratio is an issue of deep concern.”
As for the allocations to the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), “one of the most renowned schemes that has a direct impact on women’s work both paid and unpaid”, the study says, as proportion of the total Ministry of Child and Woman Development (MWCD) budget it is down from 88% in 2014-15 to 80% today.”
“While the number of operational anganwadis “increased by about 3,000, the number of children in pre-school education have fallen by 5%”, adding, as for the Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme it is “in a state of virtual collapse: its share of the MWCD budget has been consistently below one percent; fall in number of functioning creches by more than one fourth; decline in beneficiaries from 6 lakh to 1.6 lakh.”
Pointing towards how the Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Act, a social welfare legislation that aims to benefit workers engaged in building and other construction workers, is patently anti-women, the study says, “The facility of crèches under the BOCW Act is applicable to establishments that employ only ten workers; yet 50 women workers are required for this provision in order to get the benefit.”
“Also”, it says, “The maternity benefit under this law provides for only monetary compensation. There is no clarification relating to the formula or to the eligibility criteria, nor there are any terms and conditions determining payment. The women beneficiaries do not get leave and nor is there any guarantee of employment on return. No medical expenses are given and neither are nursing breaks, while there is no clause relating to avoidance of hazardous jobs.”

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