The Dismal Case of Slashing Schemes and Cutting Funds

  • IASbaba
  • November 1, 2022
  • 0
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Context: Over the past three years, over 50% of existing central government-sponsored schemes have been discontinued, subsumed, revamped, or rationalized into other schemes.

About Rationalization of schemes:

  • Ministry of Women and Child Development:
    • There are just three schemes now out of 19 schemes, i.e.,
    • Mission Shakti,
    • Mission Vatsalya,
    • Saksham Anganwadi, and Poshan 2.0.
    • Mission Shakti itself replaced 14 schemes which included the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ scheme.
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare:
    • There are now three out of 20
    • Krishonnati Yojana,
    • Integrated Scheme on Agricultural Cooperatives, and
    • the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana
    • There is little information on the National Project on Organic Farming or the National Agroforestry Policy.
  • Ministry of Animal Husbandry and Dairy:
    • It has just two schemes remaining out of 12.
    • The Ministry has ended three schemes which include Dairying through Cooperatives, National Dairy Plan-II, etc.
    • There are funding cuts in the Nirbhaya fund (2013) which focuses to improve the public safety of women in public spaces was allocated Rs. 1,000 annually (2013-16) but remains largely unspent.

Challenges for the schemes:

  • Under Utilization of funds:
    • As of June 2022, ₹1.2 lakh crore of funds meant for central government-sponsored schemes are with banks that earn interest income for the Centre.
    • For instance, the Nirbhaya fund (2013) with its focus on funding projects to improve the public safety of women in public spaces and encourage their participation in economic and social activities is an interesting case; ₹1,000 crores was allocated to the fund annually (2013-16), and remained largely unspent.
  • As of FY21-22, approximately ₹6,214 crores were allocated to the fund since its launch, but only ₹4,138 crores were disbursed.
  • Of this, just ₹2,922 crores were utilized; ₹660 crores were disbursed to the Ministry of Women and Child Development, but only ₹181 crores were utilized as of July 2021.
  • A variety of women-focused development schemes across States are being turned down or ended. Meanwhile, women continue to face significant risks while in public spaces.
  • Funding Cuts:
    • Fertilizer subsidies:
    • It has been in decline over the last few years; actual government spending on fertilizers in FY20-21 reached ₹1,27,921 crore.
    • In the FY21-22 Budget, the allocation was ₹79,529 crore (later revised to ₹1,40,122 crore amidst the COVID-19 pandemic).
    • In the FY22-23 Budget, the allocation was ₹1,05,222 crore.
    • Allocation for NPK fertilizers (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) was 35% lower than revised estimates in FY21-22.
    • Such budgetary cuts, when fertilizer prices have risen sharply after the Ukraine war, have led to fertilizer shortages and farmer anguish.
    • The allocation for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) went down by approximately 25% in the FY22-23 Budget earlier this year, with the allocated budget at ₹73,000 crores when compared to the FY21-22 revised estimates of ₹98,000 crores.
    • The Economic Survey 2022-23 has highlighted that demand for the scheme was higher than pre-pandemic levels as rural distress continues.
    • The actual funding disbursal for MGNREGA has often been delayed, leading to a decline in confidence in the scheme.
  • Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan:
    • The Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan sought to provide immediate employment and livelihood opportunities to the rural poor; approximately 50.78 crore person days of employment were provided at an expenditure of approximately ₹39,293 crores (against an announced budget of ₹50,000 crores, Ministry for Rural Development).
    • With between 60 million to 100 million migrant workers who seek informal jobs, such a scheme should have been expanded.
  • Salaries of Healthcare Workers:
    • For Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA), who are the first responders, there have been delays in salaries for up to six months.
    • Regularisation of their jobs continues to be a struggle, with wages and honorariums stuck at minimum levels.
  • Biodiversity:
    • Funding for wildlife habitat development under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has declined: from ₹165 crores (FY18-19) to ₹124.5 crores (FY19-20), to ₹87.6 crores (FY20-21).
    • Allocations for Project Tiger have been slashed — ₹323 crores (FY18-19) to ₹194.5 crores (FY20-21).

Way Forward:

  • State governments should have the flexibility to ensure that the schemes benefit the targeted groups since they implement the schemes.
  • There should be proper debates and dialogues with relevant stakeholders on the restructuring of the CSS.
  • Blockages in budgetary processes in the schemes, such as delays in the flow of funds, and in releasing sanction orders for spending shall be addressed.
  • There is a need to build capacity for an efficient civil service to meet today’s challenges by providing a corruption-free welfare system, running a modern economy and providing better public goods.
  • Rather than having a target of fewer government schemes, we should raise our aspirations towards better public service delivery.

Source: The Hindu


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