In the aftermath of demonetisation, the 2017-2018 budget was going to be a crucial one for the central government. While presenting the budget on Wednesday in the Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley passingly mentioned the allocation of funds towards the protection of two significant and vulnerable groups of the population – women and children. Funds amounting to Rs 1,84,633 crores will now be allocated to the welfare of women and children. On Wednesday morning, Jaitley said, “For welfare of women and children under various schemes across ministries, I have stepped up allocation from Rs 156,528 crore of 2016-17 to Rs 1,84,633 crore in 2017-18.”
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For India’s development and progress, he underscored that focusing on women and the girl child is crucial. Women, particularly in rural India have to be empowered and therefore, be given employment opportunities, he said. The government would invest Rs. 500 crore towards establishing the Mahila Shakti Kendras in rural areas in 14 lakh anganwadi centres. “This will provide a one-stop conversion support system for empowering rural women with opportunities for employment, skill development, digital literacy, health and nutrition,” Jaitley announced.
Beyond this however, there was no other mention about women’s development programs. It seems women entrepreneurs’ needs were completely sidelined. Quotas for women in the BIMSTEC-SAARC Women’s Economic Forum, should have been introduced to encourage women to compete with men in work spaces.
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While Jaitley mentioned the central government will commission railways lines of 3,500 kms this year, and even stressed on tiny details like certain trains would be dedicated for religious tourism — there was no mention on how safety of women, particularly lone women travelers, in these railways would be improved or looked into. Last year, while the budget did focus on introducing schemes to fight girl trafficking, it shied away from allocating funds that would help implement the Domestic Violence Act.