Welfare spending has been getting a regular pruning

Source: This post is created based on the article “Strategic convergence between India and US is growing”, published in The Hindu on 13th May 2023.

Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 2, Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population

Context: The Union Budget has been criticised for decreasing allocations for welfare schemes. Central government spending on essential social programmes has been for last 6-7 years.

Government has done well in providing tangible goods like cooking fuel, electricity, and promoting financial inclusion of women. However, there has been a decline in traditional government services like primary education and child nutrition.

During pandemic, significance of social security programmes was acknowledged by the government when it raised the Budget allocation for all the social schemes to 4.3% of GDP; but the allocation if again back to just 1.5%.

How have Welfare schemes faced funding cuts recently and what are the issues associated with it?

The Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0 programmes designed to fight child malnutrition have experienced a significant decrease in allocation, even though malnutrition rates remain high in India.

The mid-day meal (MDM) scheme has seen a 50% decrease in Budget allocation as a share of GDP. Evidence shows that the scheme has led to an improvement in class attendance, learning as well as nutritional outcomes and reduced stunting in children.

The PM Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) that offers maternity benefits to women in the unorganised sector has also been underfunded.

MGNREGA and the Public Distribution System were key to averting disaster during the pandemic. However, the allocation to both these schemes has been reduced.

Out-of-pocket expenditure on health in India remains much higher than the global average, which leads to financial distress and pushes millions into poverty each year.

Central expenditure on school education (primary and secondary) has steadily declined from 0.37% in 2014-15 to 0.23% 2023-24.

There is an urgent need to increase allocations for welfare schemes, especially those aimed at education, nutrition, and health. It is essential for India to invest in its human capital if it aspires to become a global superpower.

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