Budget 2020: How govt can take inspiration from UN’s sustainable goals to set own vision

Published: January 27, 2020 4:39:38 PM

Budget 2020-21: In 2015, the UN General Assembly had put together a collection of 17 global goals called Sustainable Development Goals which were designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

Union Budget 2020 India: Zero hunger goal — The country is home to 25 per cent of the world’s hungry population.
  • Jiji John

Budget 2020 India: In 2015, the UN General Assembly had put together a collection of 17 global goals called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which were designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Niti Aayog launched the India chapter titled SDG India Index and recently released its 2nd edition. The most important objective is understanding how each SDG is shaping up and also how policies can be better drafted to achieve the set goals. I would like to set the budget expectations basis some critical SDGs so that the resources are diligently allocated and utilized:

Zero Hunger

The country is home to 25 per cent of the world’s hungry population. A holistic approach to food security requires ensuring available, accessible and nutritious food to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in India. Eliminating hunger involves investments in agriculture, rural development, decent work, social protection and equality of opportunity.
An overwhelming majority of India’s farmers are small and marginal farmers i.e. holding less than one hectare of land. Many are not able to generate enough income to keep their families out of poverty, yet increasing their productivity is crucial to meeting India’s future food requirements.

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The challenge of food security is compounded by a significant loss of food, much of which can be attributed to poor post-harvest management. The Government of India has evolved several social safety nets to address these challenges: the Public Distribution System; the Antodaya Anna Rozgar Yojana, the Midday Meal Scheme; the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act the landmark Food Security Act which aims to provide subsidized food grain to up to 75 per cent of the rural population and 50 per cent of urban households. The government social welfare schemes need to be allocated with better budgetary allocation to bring more people above the Poverty line have food security in place and improved nutritional status for our children.

Good Health and Well-being

It was indeed a welcome move from the Government to have increased the budgetary allocation to the health sector from Rs. 52,800 crores to Rs. 62,659 crores last year. However, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 3) focuses specifically on reducing premature NCD (Non–Communicable Diseases) mortality by one-third by 2030 and NCD prevention is critical to achieving many other SDGs.

For Non-Communicable Diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, preventable cancers and chronic respiratory diseases (including asthma in children and adolescents), the budgetary allocation is minimal in this sector. (In all government hospitals, Medicine cost is to be mostly borne by the patient and the Treatment cost for NCDs in specialized hospital is high) With so many infant mortality issues cropping up during this financial year, it would be highly necessary to focus on the up-gradation of public hospital facilities to ensure basic services and quality medical facilities to the needy. We would request the Government to give the highest priority to the Health Sector in this Budget.

Child Help Foundation advocate for higher budgetary allocation for NCDs, with the assurance of funding for School-based screening for NCD risks and provision/promotion of healthy food and physical activity.

Quality Education

Last year, then finance minister late Arun Jaitley had allocated Rs 85,010 crore for the education sector. The government this year earmarked Rs 93,847.64 crore for the education sector an increase of over 10 per cent from last budget allocation.

While Rs 37,461.01 crore has been allocated for higher education, an amount of Rs 56,386.63 crore has been earmarked for school education (Preschool education, primary and secondary Education) Most of the allocation goes towards payment of Salary and very little for innovation or improvement in Quality of Education. Without a solid primary and secondary education, the quality of higher education cannot be improved. More allocation needs to be done for primary and secondary education as it lays the foundation.

While Education has always been a core focus area of the Government, we need to focus on getting basic infrastructure facilities, including good toilets and drinking water at all the Schools. There is a very high requirement of Quality Teachers to ensure Government Schools, particularly in the rural belt. There was a decrease in the budgetary allocation from Rs 871 crore to Rs 125 crore last year, which needs to be reversed again.

Gender

India ranks 108 out of 149 countries on the Geneva-based World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2018. It ranks 142 on providing economic participation and opportunity to women.  The budgetary allocation for girl child survival, maternal deaths, Adolescent Health, early marriages are areas of concern and that’s the reason we continue to rank third-lowest in the world on women’s health and survival, remaining the world’s least improved country. There is a need for substantial allocation in these sectors.

Access to Clean Drinking water and Sanitation 

In the last ten years, the allocation to rural sanitation and drinking water programs under the Ministry’s budget has seen a shift.  While the allocation of drinking water has reduced from 87% in 2009-10 to 31% in 2018-19, the allocation to rural sanitation has increased from 13% in 2009-10 to 69% in 2018-19. (Source – Union Budgets 2009-10 to 2018-19).

The Jal Shakti ministry has started on the right note to have identified the blocks and districts which are overexploited. To ensure piped drinking water in all the rural households and schools by 2024, a lot of work has to be done on the ground to achieve the target. This requires a much higher budgetary allocation compared to the Rs. 28,261 crores allocation done last year. Water has indeed become a scarce resource in many parts of the country and there have been incidents of security guards being posted to safeguard water. This shows the criticality of the resource and forms a basic ground for building a healthy generation.

  • Jiji John is Executive Director, Child Help Foundation. Views are the author’s own. 

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