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Published On:04 November 2013
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Charter of Demands on People’s Expectations on Budgetary Priorities from next Union Government released

By Pervez Bari

New Delhi: A charter of demands on “People’s Expectations on Budgetary Priorities from the Next Union Government” was released at the end of the two-day National Convention which concluded here at the India Islamic Cultural Centre on Friday.

The charter of demands which were prepared under different heads included: 1. Education; 2. Health; 3. Water & Sanitation; 4. Rural Development & PRIs; 5. Agriculture; 6. Food Security; 7. Responsiveness to Climate Change; 8. Children; 9. Women; 10. Dalits; 11. Adivasis; 12. Muslims; 13. Persons with Disabilities; 14. Unorganised Workers; and 15. Taxation

The National Convention was organised by the People’s Budget Initiative, (PBI), under the aegis of the New-Delhi based Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, (CBGA). The Charter of Demands prepared in this National Convention will form the basis of advocacy with the policymakers and members of legislature in the ensuing months.

As the country is gearing up for the next General Elections, efforts have been made by PBI to assess people’s expectations on budgetary priorities from the next Union Government. In this regard, five Regional Conventions were held – in Ranchi (for Eastern Region), Bhopal (for Northern and Central Region), Hyderabad (for Southern Region), Ahmadabad (for Western Region) and Guwahati (for North Eastern Region) during 30th of September to 7th of October 2013.

Meanwhile, the Closing Plenary Session was chaired by Amitabh Behar (National Foundation for India) while D. Raja (Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha); Prakash Javadekar (Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha) and Tapan Sen (Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha) were the panellists. PL Punia (Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha) who was also one of the panellist of the session was conspicuous by his absence. The demands made under the various heads are as follows:-

Education

1. The recommendation of Kothari Commission (1966) for 6 % of GDP for public expenditure on education is still unmet. The estimate was made long ago based on growth in enrolment, per student expenditure and other parameters. Nevertheless, it assumes importance mainly as the benchmark has remained unaccomplished so far; 2. Government should increased spending on Secondary and Higher Education. Private University Bills should be discouraged; 3. Adequate emphasis should be laid for increasing enrolment and retention of girl student in schools; 4. As per Right To Education Act, Teacher student ratio for Primary and Upper Primary schools is 1:30 and 1:35. However we find shortfall of teachers to the tune of around 11 lakh. Therefore, immediate recruitment of teachers across the country should be initiated; and 5. There exists a duality in the expenditure pattern of different government run schools. The government spends a substantially higher amount in the special category schools like Navodaya Vidyalaya, Indira Gandhi Residential School etc as compared to normal Government-run schools. There is a need for rationalization of this duality within the government supported schools.

Health

1. A long-pending recommendation has been for stepping up total public spending on health (Union and State governments combined) to 3% of GDP; the present government spending on health is a mere 1% of GDP. An increase in public spending on health to the tune of 3% of GDP would help address the shortage in physical and human resources. A related demand is to set up new health centres as well as upgrade all health institutions following the Indian Public Health Standards, (IPHS); 2. There has been a mention of separate allocation for free medicines in the 12th Five Year Plan. In keeping with the plan provisions, availability of essential drugs and medicines should be notified at all health centres (rural and urban) essentially with adequate budget provisions. Concrete provision should be made for the availability of necessary drugs/medicines at block PHCs and regular OPDs; 3. While government speaks of extending the NRHM to include the urban spaces as well, urban PHCs, also called dispensaries or government health centres across cities, need to be upgraded to meet the norms of a Primary Urban Health Centre (PUHC) with basic laboratory facilities, offering a range of preventive and curative services as well as referral services to secondary and tertiary facilities. Functioning primary care facilities need to be adequately staffed, with the services of qualified physicians (available round the clock), nurses, health workers and technicians. The facilities should stock all essential medicines appropriate for that level of care and should provide all basic diagnostic tests. All these services should be free to all patients. The facilities should also have provision for in-patient care in line with the rural PHCs; 4. The huge shortage of human resources in the health care sector is reflected even in premier institutions such as AIIMS. One of the reasons for such shortages is that the private sector, promoted and subsidized by the government, under the model of public-private partnership, draws away human resources from the under resourced public sector. The problem is further accentuated by poor working conditions in public hospitals. There is a need to significantly augment human resources in public hospitals, to improve working conditions, and to work towards strengthening public facilities rather than subsidizing private hospitals. Strict regulation for health services provided by private agencies need to be drafted and strictly followed for ensuring accountability; 5. The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), the health insurance cover for the BPL population, has been upheld as one of the major drivers of universalisation of healthcare facilities. However the functioning of the scheme requires a deeper scrutiny. A number of concerns have been reported from several states referring to improper enrolment, unethical practices by private providers accredited under the scheme, etc. Universal health care demands and a reformed public health system, if at all insurance based, should have a well drafted policy to regulate private players within the health sector.

Water & Sanitation

1. Though the Constitution of India does not recognise Right to Water as a fundamental right, Article 21 of the Constitution (Right to Life) has been interpreted to include Right to Water. Hence, water and sanitation services need to be recognised as a right and legislation for the same needs to be carried out in order to make it justiciable. Water and sanitation should be the responsibility of the government and not privatised in any form (full scale or private contracting for operations and maintenance); 2. There is a need to step up allocations for drinking water and sanitation. For the period of the Twelfth Five Year Plan, against an amount of Rs.1,66,686 crore proposed by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the amount allocated (as intimated by the Planning Commission) is Rs.98,015 crore, which is only 59 percent of the proposed allocation. As reported to the Standing Committee on Rural Development (Fortieth Report, 2012-13), the reduced allocation is likely to result in a reduction in the target of rural population covered with piped water supply proposed to be achieved by the end of the Twelfth Five Year Plan from the proposed target of 55% to 50%; 3. In order to make drinking water accessible to all individuals, out of pocket expenditure in the form of capital cost sharing and operation and maintenance (O&M) costs must be discouraged. Accordingly, O&M costs for piped drinking water schemes in rural areas should be stepped up to ensure availability of more funds at the gram panchayat level; 4. In acknowledgment of the gender-based disadvantages faced by women in accessing water supply and sanitation facilities, the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation must report its gender-responsive budgetary outlays in the Gender Budget Statement; and 5. Toilet designs with features that could be accessible for persons with disabilities should be introduced under Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan. Subsidies for construction of Individual Household latrines under Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan to households with persons with disabilities should be enhanced to allow for such modifications in the construction of toilets.

Rural Development & PRIs

1. Devolution of three F’s –Function, Fund and Functionaries is necessary for rural governance. A well thought out activity mapping is critical to ensure that functions are devolved to the appropriate level of local self-government; 2. For inadequate and relevant training and capacity buildings, PRIs often failed to handle even their limited responsibilities. Besides, lack of technical capacity, shortage of administrative staff is another major bottleneck for PRIs. Capacity building of elected and non-elected members of PRIs, employment of more administrative staffs is some major criteria towards ensuring effective implementation of programmes and schemes. Above all, greater transparency and accountability mechanism should be developed at the local level; 3. Abolition of parallel bodies like District rural Development Agencies (DRDA) and other CSS line departments and strengthening District Planning Committees (DPCs) may help create a more streamlined structure for the articulation of local plans, synergy across Panchayat plans which is critical for implementation of larger initiatives such as infrastructure; 4. Lack of convergence among different govt. agencies and different schemes targeted towards rural development is one of the major constraints. Demand of a ‘single window’ system for coordination between different programme implementing bodies is the pre requisite for sustainable rural development; and 5. The identification of appropriate beneficiaries should be done in a transparent and accountable manner at the Gram Sabha level.

Agriculture

1. There is a need for establishing a Farmers Income Commission (Permanent Body) in line with the regular Pay Commission for the government employees, which will ensure a guaranteed income to farmers. In this regard, budgetary provision should be in line with the recommendations of the Commission to secure a guaranteed income of the farmer (those who are above the age of 55) as part of their social security safety net; 2. Indian farmers, particularly the small and marginal farmers are deprived of getting fair prices for their produce due to weak marketing linkages at present. Therefore, budgetary allocation should be made to develop market linkages and to set up a Special Marketing & Transportation Corporation to link each village with urban markets, which would ensure maximum returns to the farmers and make the agriculture, as a profession viable and profitable; 3. There is a need for reorienting the whole agriculture budget of the country, particularly schemes/programmes focusing towards agricultural practices of rain-fed/dry-land agriculture. Therefore, adequate budgetary allocation should be made towards the improvement, management and monitoring of dry land /rain-fed agriculture areas. 4. Higher magnitude of funds should be allocated towards watershed development projects and for promoting micro, small and medium irrigation. The government should take concrete steps to bridge gaps between irrigation and the potential created and utilized in such irrigation projects. This could be done with intensive command area treatment and canal management as well as attempts to raise water use efficiency; and 5. Special incentives should be provided to the farmers those who are practicing organic farming. In this regard, budgetary provision should be made to create a dedicated cell at the district level to promote and monitor the growth of organic farming in the area. Further, budgetary allocation should be increased towards provisioning of organic manures so that farmers can avail such manures at a rate comparable with the chemical fertiliser.

Food Security

1. The National Food Security Act -2013 has excluded 33 percent of the population from accessing the PDS as a right, continuing the exclusion principle on priority and general category households. Therefore, the next government should take immediate step and adequate resources to universalise the Public Distribution System (PDS) in the country; 2. The next Union government should provide adequate resources for the implementation of National Food Security Act -2013. Due to lack of resources, poorer states are not in a position to implement the NFSA provisions and hence, the Act may not be implemented in true spirit. Therefore, the Union Government should allocate sufficient budgets (as supplementary budget) to the poorer states to ensure food security. Procurement and storage of food grains must be decentralised, preferably done at the Panchayat levels. Sufficient budgetary provisions should be made towards construction of storage facilities, particularly for perishable agriculture produce (horticulture and vegetable crops) in order to address the wastages of food-grains. For this, budgetary allocations under Village Grain Banks (VGBs) scheme needs to be done to encourage local procurement, storage and distribution and to ensure food security at the household level; 3. The government should provide higher Minimum Support Price (MSP) as legal entitlement within the National Food Security Act. The Act does not provide agriculture and production related entitlements for farmers in spite of the fact that majority of the people in this country are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood; 4. PDS should be expanded to cover pulses and edible oils and other essential commodities. In this regard, adequate investment should be made towards production of pulses and oilseeds in the country to combat malnutrition. Special provisions are needed to decentralized procurement of crops like millets and pulses, which would ensure price support for these crops. The Union government, therefore, should encourage some of the states (with a greater reliance on rain fed agriculture) to consider devoting at least two days in a week for providing millet-based noon meals in the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) scheme – this could be taken up on a pilot basis in a few blocks where millets are still part of household food consumption. Hence, the next Union Government should allocate sufficient budgets towards encouraging millet based farming and food system as these grains not only have high nutritional value, but also extremely crucial to tackle food and farming crisis in an era of climate change.

Responsiveness to Climate Change

1. National Action plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) which was envisaged in 2008, need to be made active. The 12th plan neither gives any clarity neither on the allocation of missions amongst various ministries nor on the funding mechanisms for all eight missions of NAPCC. These doldrums need to be avoided. In this charter, we demand from the next Union Government for clear finance allocations for all 8 missions of NAPCC and timeline based target in NAPCC and State action plan on climate change (SAPCC) should be prepared in consultation with public; 2. Climate change adaptation measures should be gender sensitive and should focus on developing financial instrument for the livelihood of rural population. There should be transfer of budgetary allocation till the panchayat level under SAPCC, Disaster management measures, renewable energy initiatives and biodiversity conservation measures. Budget allocation for disaster management should include allocation for establishing disaster prediction and information dissemination centers; 3. We urge the Union Government to grant ‘priority sector status’ to renewable energy projects in order to enable the sector to access priority lending by commercial banks and conditions of financing renewable projects at state level need to be reviewed. Waste to energy project need to promotes for establishing market linkage with waste collector for better sustainability; 4. CBGA Study has shown ineffective utilization of National clean energy fund (NCEF) and its objectives. Next Union Government should priorities fund allocations in line with the objectives of such funds which are reserved for mitigating climate change. Also, there should be concurrent monitoring mechanism in place in such funds; and 5. India set the target to reduce emission intensity of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in line with the target of 20 per cent to 25 per cent reduction over 2005 levels by 2020. Other ministries and their schemes have direct impact on target set forth in 12th five year plan. It is required that the other ministries should collaborate, supplement and enable achieving the targets for environmental sustainability. Union government must set parts of this target on climate change with other ministries other than the Ministry of Environment & Forests, along with allocation of corresponding budgetary requirement and setting up of overall review committees for this target. We also demand to introduce a budget line on environmental conservation into budgets of all ministries with targets.

Children

1. The government should provide resources for a comprehensive mapping of interventions needed for children in different sectors. Participation of children in the processes of setting up priorities should be initiated (like Bal Panchayats and representation in SMCs). Exclusion faced by marginalized children needs to be mapped, and following the Supreme Court order of 2004, ICDS centres should be established in all Dalit habitations. Child impact indicators should be developed for ministries and departments dealing with schemes or services, directly and indirectly related to children; 2. The restructured ICDS should be properly implemented and allocation for ICDS should be raised. It is vital to improve the unit costs in Supplementary Nutrition Programme, there is a need for a shift in the policy guiding providing food at AWCs and PRIs should decide the food to be given at AWCS according to the regional food pattern and availability of food. It is also needed that Anganwadi Workers and Anganwadi Helpers are developed into a professional cadre; 3. In order to ensure universal quality education for all up to 18 years of age; the Kendriya Vidyalaya standards should guide the financial norms for all government schools. Higher allocation needs to be provided for Primary School Education (PSE) kit for effective education learning at mini Anganwadi centres (AWCs). There also for establishing of higher secondary schools to help address the problem of child marriage. There should be stringent punishment must be there for private schools not following the 25% reservation; 4. The government should take steps to address the violence and exploitation that children risk. There is an immediate need to strengthen Integrated Child Protection Scheme, step up outlays for the scheme. Attention should be paid to formation of child protection cell in each school and Village Child Protection Committees in each village, sensitise the members to carry out their roles regarding safeguarding the overall interest and of the children; and 5. The ‘Care’ deficit in policies for young children under six has its implications for survival, development, and protection of these children. The needs of health, nutrition, care, stimulation and learning should be provided holistically by an adult caregiver. There is a need to bring legislation for free and universal Early Childhood Care and Development.

Women

1. The budget circular issued by the Ministry of Finance needs to be engendered. The circular should specify that ministries and departments need to analyse the policies, programmes and budgets from a gender perspective; 2. The Ministries/Departments should make a serious effort to – recognize the specific gender-based challenges confronting women and girl children in their sectors of concern and then amend the objectives, operational guidelines, financial norms and unit costs of their schemes/interventions to make those more gender responsive; 3. Interventions addressing gender based should be backed by adequate budgetary outlays. there is a also need for all the ministries and departments to identify the specific interventions for ensuring safety of women in their respective sectors and put in place requisite measures, backed by adequate funding; 4. Frontline workers under ICDS, NRHM, KGBV and Mid May Meals should be recognised as regular employees and ensure minimum wages and social security to all along with regularization of working conditions; 5. Addressing concerns of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP): In the absence of a national law on displacement, we urge that the state governments must adhere to international standards set out in ‘Guiding principles on Internally Displaced Persons’ in planning and implementing rehabilitation packages and programmes especially addressing the strategic gender needs of women in post conflict situations; and 6. In the context of feminization of agriculture, there should be due recognition in our agricultural policies that increasingly, the work is being carried out by women agricultural labourers or marginal women farmers, in the absence of the men of the households (who are increasingly migrating to cities in search of better opportunities). Since the benefits under the agricultural schemes are linked to land rights, the women are unable to get benefit from these schemes as the ownership of land is not in their names. In such a scenario, the government should take steps to address this problem. Conferring tiller rights, encouraging registration of land title in joint names (by reducing stamp duty for the same), providing technical agricultural training to women farmers, promoting organic farming, providing extension services to women farmers etc. are some of the interventions that need to be taken up.

Dalits

1. Enact Legislation on SCSP that provides for earmarking of Plan allocations for Dalits in proportion to their share in the total population; 2. All the Ministries and Departments should be encouraged to: (i) identify what could be the additional difficulties / challenges confronting SCs in their sectors of concern, (ii) what kind of measures could be taken by them to address those special difficulties / challenges, and (iii) how much additional resources would be required for such special measures. These additional resources devoted for the special measures for SCs should then be reported under SCSP; 3. Concerns of Dalit women should be identified and accounted for, while planning for schemes and programmes to be reported under SCSP; 4. A comprehensive development framework should be evolved for Dalits and there should be convergence among different sectoral schemes. Priority must be given in SCSP to employment, skill development, entrepreneurship development and higher education for Dalits. Also, basic amenities to all Dalit bastis or settlements, education allowances for higher education and adequate fund provision for addressing health needs of Dalits should be made available; and 5. To ensure that beneficiaries’ identification is streamlined, a list of Dalit beneficiaries in all government schemes and programmes (e.g. JNNURM, NRHM) should be maintained separately.

Adivasis

1. Legal status to TSP for effective implementation of TSP; 2. Special consideration to Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) and women in access to basic facilities - Tribal groups such as Tea-tribes in Assam should be recognized as PVTGs; 3. Allocate funds for conducting tribe-wise population survey - to ensure that there exist effective implementation mechanisms and transfer of benefits from the earmarked funds for STs; 4. Create a dedicated administrative mechanism – Indian Tribal Services on lines of IAS, IFS, etc. and 5. Heavy taxes on existing natural resource based industries, moratorium on any new such projects.

Muslims

1. There should be a separate budgetary provision in the Union Budget for the upliftment of Muslims. Allocations should be made in proportion to the Muslim population. As of now, there is no separate budgetary provision for Muslims; 2. There should be a separate statement (in Expenditure Budget Vol. I)on financial allocations to Muslims. A separate minor head can be created for Muslims in the budget in line with those of SCSP and TSP; 3. Budgetary outlays for Muslims must be made non-lapsable; additionally, there is a need to develop and strengthen mechanisms to check diversion of funds from these schemes for general purpose expenditures; 4. While stepping up outlays for Muslims is an important way to address the problem, it is also critical to ensure that the programmes are implemented more effectively and the services are delivered to the intended beneficiaries through exclusive projects and need assessments; and 5. The Multi Sectoral Development Programme (MSDP) and the PM’s New 15-Point Programme should adopt a village / hamlet level approach, instead of the prevailing district level approach, for identifying potential beneficiaries and for better implementation.

Persons with Disabilities

1. India, as a signatory to UNCRPD, needs to develop and carry out policies, laws and administrative measures for securing the rights recognized in the Convention. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, which is in consonance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, should be passed with adequate budget provisions; 2. All policies and programmes across ministries and departments should be made responsive towards ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities. There is a need to assess the extent to which the challenges/issues faced by disability sector are being addressed through budgetary allocation. There should be revamping of all the schemes under all departments and Ministries for mainstreaming disability. All flagship schemes like NREGS, NRHM, NRLM, SSA and RMSA should be accessible to persons with disabilities. In the budget of all the Ministries, a 6% allocation should be made for disability related issues pertaining to that particular Ministry. Adequate funds should be provided by the next government for setting up of disability units in all ministries and departments; 3. Resource allocation for provision of adequate, accessible, affordable, adaptable and quality health care products and services for persons with disabilities. Allocations shall be made to support the medical, rehabilitation and nutritional needs of children with disabilities and for persons with demilination and degenerating conditions. The support must follow the principles of 4AQ; 4. There should be adequate allocation of funds towards promoting accessible and accommodative curriculum, teaching-learning methodologies and evaluation systems, training of human resource towards the same and transition programme from home based education to mainstream to ensure quality inclusive education for all children with disabilities at all levels of education. Adequate allocation should be made towards skill development programmes and vocational training of students. All education schemes should be amended in lines with UNCRPD; and 5. Related to Employment, there is need for earmarking budget outlays for establishing a National Employment Portal for persons with disabilities, a National Labour Institute for Persons with Disabilities, and new Model Vocational Rehabilitation Centres. There should be inter-sectoral and interdepartmental collaboration and coordination for creating opportunities for persons with disabilities and making provision for at least 6 per cent reservation in the public and private sector (including multinational companies).

Unorganised Workers

1. There should be a separate demand head and associated budgetary provisions for the entire unorgansied sector covering budgetary provisions for all subsectors such as domestic workers, brick kiln workers, auto rickshaw workers, workers in the fisheries sector including building and construction workers, bidi workers. All the unorganized workers both in the organized and unorganized sectors should be inclusive in this budget head; 2. As per the guidelines under the Unorganised sector Social Security Act 2008, a Universal and Comprehensive Unorganised Sector Social Security Board should be constituted for all the subsectors mentioned above. A provision for a Biometric Worker Identity Card should be considered as the first task of such a board. Adequate budgetary provision should be made for the provision of universal worker identity card and functioning of the committee should be clearly allocated in the forthcoming union budgets. A separate cess of 1-2% on all central taxes may be collected for the budgetary provision for sub-sectors other than Construction workers and Bidi workers for which there already exists resource mobilization mechanisms through cess. As far as cess for construction and bidi workers is concerned, this should be managed by the union government and allocations be made to states accordingly; 3. All committed benefits for the unorganized sector workers may be guaranteed in the budget within the lapse of the financial year and the provisions for them should be clearly articulated in the budget itself; 4. All sub-sectors in the unorganized sector such as domestic workers, brick kiln workers, patthar khadan workers, auto rickshaw workers, workers in the fisheries sector and other sub sectors covered under the board should be clearly defined in the budget documents itself in the “key to Budget Documents” and in the form of notes where allocations are made for the specific sub sectors; and 5. Instead of profit making insurance companies, ESIC facilities should be provided to all unorganized sector workers issued with identity cards. Accountability mechanism for this should be clearly articulated in the budget documents in a prominent manner.

Taxation

1. There should be some concrete plan or policy framework to increase India’s tax-GDP ratio significantly; 2. Attention should be paid to increase the tax buoyancy; 3. In India’s tax system, there should be an effort to collect more direct taxes, as heavy reliance on indirect taxes is generally regressive; 4. Information on commodity-wise details of revenue collected through indirect taxes is required in forthcoming Union Budget documents to clarify indirect tax burden implications for different sections of population; 5. There is a need to make wealth tax more broad-based and progressive as well as introduction of an inheritance tax in order to pursue the objectives of reducing inequality and increasing revenue mobilisation. 6. There is a need to reduce and rationalise the existing gamut of tax exemptions in Central Government tax system; 7. There is a need to carry out a comprehensive review of India’s Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAAs) with various countries, especially those like Mauritius, Cyprus and Singapore; and 8. Implementation of General Anti Avoidance Rules (GAAR) is required in India to deter aggressive tax planning and tax avoidance practices.

It may be pointed out here that the above demands made in the Charter at the conclusion of the National Convention are just a miniscule of the inputs collected from the five regional conventions. The Charter of Demands will be shared with the Union Ministry of Finance, other union ministries that deal with social sectors and disadvantaged sections of population and a number of other key stakeholders.

[Pervez Bari is a senior Journalist based at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Madhya Pradesh). He can be contacted at pervezbari@eth.net]

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on November 04, 2013. Filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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