The National Social Assistance Programme, which came into effect from 1995, aims to provide small amounts of social pensions to all those who are below the poverty line and above 60 years of age, and to the widows and the disabled. The programme has over 2.7 crore registered beneficiaries and enables the elderly poor to afford food and basic medication.
However, the centre’s contribution per pensioner has remained stagnated at a meagre Rs 200-300/month since 2006. In addition to this, the respective states add their own contribution, and thus the actual pension value varies from state to state.
With the central government slashing the social sector allocation in January, these schemes were the worst hit. The budget for social pensions was revised from Rs 10,500 crore to Rs 7187 crore. Following the cut, the Ministry of Rural Development failed to allocate money for pensions in time to states, creating a deficit of more than Rs 2,000 crore at the state level. Consequently, several elderly beneficiaries of the scheme did not receive their pensions for several months.
A few other sectors where the budget was revised in the middle of the fiscal year are listed below:
Child education and health:
The Union Budget for 2015-16 cut the net spending on child education, development, health and protection from about Rs 81,075 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 57,919 crore in 2015-16.
• Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS): Declined from Rs 18,000 crore to Rs 8,000 crore.
• Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS): Increased by Rs 2.23 crore.
• Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan: Declined from Rs 28,000 crore to Rs 22,000 crore.
• Midday meal scheme: Declined from Rs 13,000 crore to Rs. 9,000 crore.
School and higher education:
The allocation for the education sector was slashed significantly by nearly 17% as compared to the Budget Estimates of 2014-15.
• Department of School Education: Declined from Rs 55,000 crore to 42,210 crore.
• Department of Higher Education: Declined by 800 crore.
The capital budget for the army, navy and the air force was cut by about Rs 13,000 crore, and “re-appropriated” for revenue expenditure. Capital expenditure goes into buying and modernising equipment and weapons, while revenue expenditure goes mostly into payment of salaries and pensions.
Agriculture and rural development:
• Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana: Declined from Rs 9,864 crore to Rs. 4,500 crore.
• National Rural Drinking Water Program: Declined from Rs 11,000 crore to Rs 3,600 crore.
Even at 76, Pradip Burman, the zestful chairman of Mobius Foundation radiates a contagious enthusiasm when he is talking about sustainability. The environmental crusader, better known to many as the great-grandson of Dabur founder Dr S.K.Burman, has devoted substantial attention towards promoting the concept of sustainability in all aspects of life. He refuses to conform to the convenience and comfort in today’s world which ultimately adds on to the adverse effects of climate change.
Talking to The Logical Indian, Burman emphasised why sustainability as a concept is indispensable for us. “We ought to be aware of what lies ahead of us. Soon we will finish the oil, iron, tin, and coal, and our next generations will be left with nothing. Recycling, banning plastics, stop felling trees for paper… This should become a part of everyone’s lifestyle,” he urges.
Traditional wisdom and modern research
A mechanical engineer from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA, Burman had always nurtured a keen interest in helping the society, as evident from his graduation project of designing a sonic aid for the visually challenged, which detected obstacles in the way using ultrasonic wave signals.
As an executive for the nature-centric company Dabur, Burman has always opted for natural alternatives to solve his everyday problems like taking Ayurvedic medicine to cure his Arthritis. He later launched the veterinary wing for Dabur – Ayurvet – which provides nature-friendly solutions for animal health care.
A patron of the ancient scientific wisdom of India, Burman always hailed the confluence of “traditional knowledge and modern research”, which he advocated as the Ayurvet motto.
As part of the CSR initiative of Dabur, Pradip Burman founded SUNDESH (Sustainable Development Society) which has been tirelessly working for last 25 years in remote villages for uplifting the rural communities in an environmentally sustainable way.
An advocate of sustainability
Burman believes that sustainability is the indispensable mantra for the world at present. Due to uncontrolled utilisation of the planet’s resources by human beings, the world today stands at a juncture of destabilisation. Today the human race has reached the pinnacle of progress but the advancement is happening in a very unsustainable manner.
Through energy-efficient use of everyday essentials like transport, communication, altered habits of diet, clothing and daily living, some crusaders of sustainability try to reduce their carbon footprint. Pradip Burman’s Mobius Foundation is one of the forerunners toward sustainability goals.
Mobius Foundation aims to change the sustainability dynamics
In 2015, Burman paved the way for the start of Mobius Foundation, focused on sustainability. Named after 18th-century German mathematician August Ferdinand Mobius, the famous Mobius strip has an important philosophical significance. The extraordinary shape symbolises balance and union.
Similar is the essence of Mobius Foundation which wishes to enhance the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” principle to a widespread basis in India, helping generations to come.
Founder Pradip Burman wishes to achieve notable development in education, population stabilisation and renewable energy projects.
A dream school in the making
At Coorg, Pradip Burman’s Mobius Foundation is constructing the World Environment School, Coorg (WESc) where the curriculum will surpass the boundaries of books and classrooms, with a special focus on hands-on learning in close collaboration with the environment. Amidst the pristine natural beauty of Coorg, the school will nurture young minds to grow up into future green leaders. As of now, the school will be open to teenagers, welcoming students from standards 6 to 12.
Needless to say, World Environment School will be the first-of-its-kind not only in India but also in entire South Asia. The school is expected to start from March 2020.
The school promises to nurture the responsible behaviour of citizens of our future.
The Sustainability Conference of 2019
In 2019, the Mobius Foundation has planned an international conference, on the lines of the celebrated earth summits over the past decade. The 2019 International Conference on Sustainability Education (ICSE 2019) aims to bring together environmental activists, practitioners of sustainable development as well as climate change experts to help develop a sustainability-focused curriculum.
It is surmised that the conference will give a platform to innovative concepts of Sustainability Education including an essential change in the existing education system ensuring a wholesome personal development for a student.
The Sustainability crusader
The Mobius founder strongly believes that it is high time to sprout sustainability awareness among a society drowning in consumerism and unknowingly doing irreparable harm to the planet, every second. The best way to achieve this goal is through education which is available to all. At present, the education system is predominantly career-oriented, making the learners a victim of materialism, and thus, their dreams are also outlined in those colours.
Living beyond the limits
When asked about his wish to attain the age of hundred, he strongly asserts that more than becoming a centurion, he wishes his life and work continue to better the society even in his absence. “I have lived my life. I wish that whatever I start before I go, will continue – for the betterment of my country,” says Mr Pradip Burman.
He is also a trustee of the Climate Reality Project – India (affiliated to Mr. Al Gore of the Climate Reality Project Foundation, USA). Climate Reality Project, India, has been actively engaged igniting the spark and spreading the message of climate change amongst educators, policy makers and civil society. The India branch looks after more than 500 trained Climate Leaders, and more than 900 volunteers spread all over the country.
In his journey, Pradip Burman has been a beacon of hope for millions, motivating many to join the movement for sustainability. We wish he continues his tireless efforts for promoting sustainability awareness and inspire generations to come.