Manipur Budget 2021-2022: Perspective on Gender Budget

Prof. (Dr) Binota Meinam
The inclusion of Gender Budget for the first time in the post 1972 political history of Manipur by the current BJP-led Government under the Honorable Chief Minister Shri N Biren Singh, which was presented on 05 th February 2021 in the ongoing State budget session (for the year 2021-2022) by the Deputy Chief Minister Shri Y. Joykumar Singh, who himself is also serving as the Finance Minister of the State, is historic and farsighted in its approach to an inclusive and holistic growth and development of the State. Indeed, such a gesture of the current Government that envisions a sustainable growth by merging the existing gender inequalities will remain as the landmark in the socio-political history of the State.
Making the State budget gender sensitive is one of the most important measures and is itself the need of the hour not only for the State of Manipur but also for all the States and Nations, as gender gaps and inequalities hinder the overall growth and development, socially, politically as well as economically. After all, Gender budgeting or gender-sensitive budgeting, is not about creating a separate budget for women or transgender, which are marginalized due to constructed and continued systemic gendered norms, but preparing and analysing the budget and its allocation from a gender perspective by acknowledging the existing gaps based on gender disparities. Thus, Gender budgeting is to redistribute and redefine the public resources allocation for the upliftment of underprivileged genders. Ultimately, its objective is to empower the disadvantaged groups by promoting equality through Government fiscal policies, which is again one of the main outcomes as well as demand of the 4th United Nations conference on women held at Beijing (1995) so as to achieve Gender Mainstreaming.
One of the main causes for the existing disparities, suppressions and disadvantages among women and transgender specifically turns out to be the socially constructed notion of gender and its resulted inequality. According to the United Nations Human Development Report, the overall progress in minimising the gender inequality gap has been slowing down in the recent years; and thus required appropriate policies and programs to curve the issue as gender inequality has a direct correlation to the loss of human growth and development.
The inequalities that women face in most of the society makes them in having less access to and control over resources and are also not facilitated to involve in the decision making processes. Gender analysis in health often highlights how inequalities disadvantages women’s health and often make them to suffer extensively, personally as well as socially. Thus, Gender analysis identifies the areas and informs the actions required to address the inequalities that exist between genders through the process of Gender mainstreaming.
Gender mainstreaming as defined by ECOSOC Resolution is “the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in any area and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and social spheres, such that inequality between men and women is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality” It further states that “Mainstreaming gender is both a technical and a political process which requires shifts in organizational cultures and ways of thinking, as well as in the goals, structures and resource allocations. Mainstreaming requires changes at different levels within institutions, in agenda setting, policy making, planning, implementation and evaluation. Instruments for the mainstreaming effort include new staffing and budgeting practices, training programmes, policy procedures and guidelines.”
So, Gender policy and budgeting is an important aspect in the process of gender mainstreaming which the current BJP led Government of the State gives due concerns with introduction of Gender Budget for the year 2021-2022.
According to Census 2011, 49.8 per cent of the total population of Manipur is constituted by female and thus form almost half of the entire population of the State. However, there exists a prominent and considerable gap in the performance outcome between genders in our State. In education sector, a considerable gap exist between literacy level of male and female in every district of the State and also in access to higher education system, enrolment in scientific and technical streams and acquiring different skill sets as reported.
Similarly, in health sector, maternal and child healthcare system is given special importance in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the on-going Post Development Agendas for a sustainable growth and development. The State of Manipur accounted with high Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) and Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) while the percentage of fully immunised children in the age group 12-23 months is also reported to be very low.
Also, only 3.6 per cent of the total household is covered by a health scheme or health insurance according to NFHS-4 report. Besides, the State is also reported of having high percentage of anaemic women, unmet demand of modern family planning methods, low level of antenatal care (full), less maternal-child health card, institutional delivery, financial assistance etc in the line of maternal and child healthcare. Again, in the sector of economic earning and labour participation, women in Manipur are lagging much behind the men according to PLFS report by NSO. Women engagement in household work is not counted as work, and women who are engaging as casual labourers are paid comparatively much lesser than their male counterparts.
NFHS-4 also reported a high percentage of women’s participation in household discussion and decision making in the State of Manipur. However, it is still questionable whether their opinion is considered and counted while making the decision. In political domain and institutional decision making position like Judge, the participation level of women in Manipur is comparatively very low. Also, crimes against of women or making women to involve forcefully in unwanted activities are reportedly considerably high by National Crime Record Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs.
It is undeniably true that every Government program has an integral objective to achieve plan benefit, progress and welfare for the general public which constitute children, men, women and transgender. However, considering the status and inequalities that exist between the genders in our State, Gender budgeting is very important and integral to dismantle the existing gender inequalities. Thus, the initiative taken up by the present State Government of Manipur with introduction of Gender budget needs to be handled very carefully in its implementation to achieve an inclusive and holistic growth. Further, the budget has to stand only to back a policy that addresses the needs and aspirations of the margina-lized genders. So, the Gender Budget would be meaningful only when the correlated programs are implemented and executed strategically and stringently under a separate Ministry created specifically for the purpose. However, the step and gesture as taken up by the current BJP-led State Government through the introduction of the State Gender Budget is much appreciated and will always have a positive impact on the growth and development by minimizing the gaps that exist between genders in our State.
The writer is Chairperson, Mani-pur State Commission for Women