Social sector bodies today sought higher allocations for education, rural jobs, healthcare, old-age pension, insurance, food security and water in their pre-budget consultation with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The non-government organisation or civil society bodies also raised the issue of providing social security to around 48 crore informal sector workers in the consultation meeting held today. The minister agreed with stakeholders’ demand that administrative ministries should release welfare scheme funds on priority to beneficiaries, the finance ministry said in a statement after the meeting.
The government is fully committed to ensuring cost effective fund utilisation of the welfare schemes spanning the various social sector ministries, it said.
The finance minister also welcomed the suggestions of the representatives desiring greater allocation of funds for child protection schemes, healthcare for the elderly and address needs of labour in the informal sector.
Right to Education Forum said that the urgent investments in equitable quality education are needed now and first step towards that would be through ensuring that all schools in India adhere to standards laid down under the Right to Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
NREGA Sangharsh Morcha said that NREGA (rural employment guarantee scheme) budget for 2018-19 should be adequate to meet the demands of the worker raised by the Morcha and it is also important to ensure that the budget allocated for scheme at the beginning of the fiscal be not considered as a cap.
The Morcha pointed out that the finance ministry has been arbitrarily approving only a portion of the labour budget projected by the state governments citing instance that the ministry approved only 75 per cent of the labour budget projected by states for this fiscal.
They demanded that the minimum wage under NREGA should be Rs 600 per day to live dignified life whereas they are paid a third of this at present.
They also demanded to provide guaranteed work for 24 days in a year against 100 days provided at present to a household.
HelpAge India raised the issue of old-age pension and urged the government to increase the amount from Rs 200 per month to Rs 2,000 for over 10 crore population.
The body also asked for universal health insurance scheme for senior citizens as well as unorganised workers saying that the RSBY health insurance schemes for senior citizens has not made any headway.
WaterAid pointed out that over the past five years, the budget for National Rural Drinking Water Programme has declined from Rs 10,892 crore to Rs 6,050 crore and asked for proportionate budgetary allocation to realise this mission.
Right to Food Campaign hoped that the Budget 2018 will make nutrition and food security central priority and address the numerous gaps that have been pointed out over the years.
During the meeting, the finance ministry assured these bodies to discuss issue related to Good and Services Tax affecting their organisation in a separate meeting.