September 18th, 2015
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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.