Kerala FM Thomas Isaac seems to have overcome the temptation to call his eighth budget a 'gender budget' as was widely reported in the pre-budget analyses.  But he has bundled all the projects/schemes for women's welfare and safety, a deft packaging to save the face of his government which is under tremendous pressure for allegedly failing to ensure the safety of women. 
 

Related: Kerala Budget 2017 leaked? Furore in Assembly, Opposition demands FM's resignation
 

The government is giving a big thrust to the welfare, safety and security of women, Isaac said in his budget speech. A new department for women would be formed this year, and gender budget would be reinstated, he said. The budget also proposed to set aside 11.5% of plan outlay to various schemes related to women welfare. More control rooms for Pink Police Patrol, more shelter homes for women also found mention in the budget speech. 

 

Budget takeaways for women:

  •  Rs 12 cr for Pink Police Control Rooms, self-defence training for women. 
  •   Rs. 34 cr for awareness programmes for women, on women safety. 
  •   Rs. 3 cr for two SOS model homes. 
  •  Rs.5 cr. for establishing a special fund for the protection and rehabilitation of victims of atrocities against women. 
  •  A special department for women. The department will have 14 district officers and law officer, administrative officer and supporting staff at the Directorate level. 
  •   Rs1,060.5 cr for 64 schemes with 100% women beneficiaries. This is 5.23% of the total plan outlay. 
  •   Rs.13,400 cr for 104 schemes in which women are a special category or part of the beneficiary list. Out of this Rs.1,266cr is for women-specific schemes. This would make 6.5% of the total plan outlay. 
  •  Kudumbasree Mission, the women's self-help initiative, will get Rs.161 cr

 

A close look at the budget proposals would show that the Finance Minister, who is under pressure to give a feeling that the government is caring women more, has put all the welfare schemes together in one package. At one point, he claimed that 11.5% of the total outlay was for the women's welfare. That makes a very big share of the total budgetary allocation. But the allocation would be divided into 168 schemes, many of them are not specific to women.  The Finance Minister created separate segments for women in the existing or new schemes to address the women and a detailed scheme-wise analysis would be needed to understand how it would impact women. For example, out of the Rs.90 crore allocation for minority welfare, the budget proposes to set aside an amount of Rs. 50 crore for the housing scheme of widows or poor women deserted by husbands.

Also read: Kerala Budget 2017 highlights: Free internet to 20 lakh families, cheap internet for all

 

"All men in the clan of'Kuru' (Kuruvamsa) used to flnd joy at seeing the tears of women; I know", M.T (writer MT Vasudevan Nair) told so through Gandhari in his novel 'Randamoozham'. All the cruel patriarchs and brothers in M.T's works either failed to see the tears of their nieces and sisters or mocked it. Even though women have moved from the kitchen to the centre stage, the atrocities against them are no less.The atrocities against women are a disgrace to the Malayalee community. A hallmark of this budget is the emphasis given to prevent the atrocities against women and their rehabilitation. Dr Thomas Isaac in his budget speech.


The allocation for awareness programmes (Rs. 34 cr) on women safety looks out of proportion when compared with the funds proposed for Pink Police Patrol and self-defence training (Rs.12 cr). The special fund for the protection and rehabilitation, for example, got only Rs. 5 cr!
 

Related: Kerala Budget 2017: FM banks heavily on off-budget sources, KIFB for funding projects
 

But the welcome step is the announcement that the next budget would present a gender audit document. The minister said that the audit would be placed along with the gender budget statement next year. This could be used by women and civil society organizations  to intervene in and assess the schemes and projects for women. 

 

When the special department for women was first announced in the Governor's address to Kerala Assembly last week, the women's organisations came up mixed response, because many of them felt that a separate department would only mean the creation of more government posts and more files and nothing much on the ground for women. The only discernible difference, at least for the time being, would be that the social welfare schemes for women presently under the Social Justice Department will be shifted to the new department.