To meet gender-related SDG targets, improve the resource allocation
The low allocations, huge fluctuations over the years in funds, and the underspending clearly indicate that political interest in efficiently targeting the SDGs is marginal. Political interest is driven either for electoral gains or as firefighting mechanisms
Adequate resource allocation accounts for the continued deficit in health, nutrition and welfare outcomes for women and girls in India.
The trajectory towards realising the SDG targets is not going to be easy with the current level of political commitment to these issues. If this deficit has to be reduced in order to move towards the SDG targets in the stipulated time, budgets for service delivery have to be increased substantially without further delay.
Over the last few years, new programmes and schemes targeted at women and girls have been launched, especially in areas such as health, nutrition, livelihood and protection from abuse. Some progress has been made in law-making on domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex selection.However, inadequate allocation of resources have made implementation of these programmes and schemes ineffective or limited in their reach.
The health, nutrition and welfare deficit in India is still high when compared with countries of similar level of development such as Thailand or Mexico,or even countries which are less economically developed such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. Within this, there are class, caste and gender inequities, as well as regional inequities. A large part of this deficit is due to inadequate budgetary allocations. Even resources committed in the budget are either underspent or used inefficiently.
The picture we get from the government’s own data sets such as NFHS, SRS and NSSO is that maternal and child mortality remains a major problem in many states in India. Access to basic healthcare services, including maternal, sexual and reproductive health is grossly inadequate. Violence against women and marriage before legal age continue to be high, despite stringent legal provisions and investment in supportive programmes and services.
On the positive side, we see an increased public debate and media attention to gender issues.This periodically leads to increase in budgetary allocations – for instance, when an epidemic strikes, or children die in large numbers due to malnourishment, or rape cases get highlighted in the media.
An assessment of budget allocations and expenditures of some of the key programmes and schemes targeted at reducing gender inequities leads to the conclusion that there is lack of serious intent in achieving the goals. These programmes and schemes are launched with much fanfare but end up being populist proclamations directed towards electoral outcomes or public relations exercises.