Most of the public discussion on budgets is concentrated around the presentation of the Union Budget, and to a lesser extent the budgets of various states. But should we not look more closely at how these budgets are actually spent? Consider the following facts, all based on official data:
*There are very high hopes from a national scheme to protect traditional wisdom in agriculture. This scheme is called the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana. During the last financial year 2016-17 Rs. 297 crore was allocated for this scheme. However, this was later revised to just Rs. 120 crore, less than half of the original allocation.
*In the budget for 2016-17, an allocation of Rs. 1,700 crore was made for the National Food Security Mission. When the revised estimates were prepared, this was cut down to Rs.1,280 crore.
*The original allocation of Rs. 5,400 crore for the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana was cut to Rs. 3,550 crore in the revised estimates.
* The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme is a high priority scheme of the government for protecting and educating the girl child. In the budget for 2016-17 Rs.100 crore was allocated for this scheme, but it is surprising to know that later this was cut to just Rs. 43 crore or less than half of the original estimate.
*The scheme for the creation of a national platform of unorganised workers and providing identification numbers to them had at that time attracted a lot of attention, and in fact a sum of Rs. 144 crore was allocated for this in the 2016-17 budget. But budget was also revised and reduced to less than Rs. one crore!
*Another important scheme of social security called the ‘Swavalamban’ scheme was allotted a sum of Rs. 209 crore in Union budget for 2016-17, but in the revised estimates this was reduced to nil!
*The Atal Pension Yojana has been another highly publicised social security scheme. In the 2016-17 budget, a sum of Rs. 200 crore had been allocated for this scheme, but while preparing the revised estimates, this was cut to just `40 crore.
* In the budget for 2016-17, a sum of Rs.50 crore had been allocated for creating awareness and publicity of two other social security schemes – the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Beema Yojana and the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana.
However, this allocation was reduced to just Rs. 5 crore in the revised estimates. These are just a few examples of how significantly the revised estimates can differ from the original estimates in the context of several important schemes.
In the examples that we have given above we have concentrated on those schemes which have more relevance for rural people and for weaker sections and have been taken from the original and revised estimates for the Union Budget for the previous financial year i.e., financial year 2016-17.
However, a similar trend can be seen in some state budgets also. For example, recently there was a big debate about why there had been very high levels of unutilised budget in Maharashtra in important areas concerning rural people and weaker sections in the context of the state budget for the financial year 2016-17.
It was pointed out that the overall budget utilisation level was around just 46 percent or so while in the case of some important departments the utilisation levels were as low as 15 percent. While it is possible that the entire year was not fully covered in these pre-budget estimates, but still these statistics are quite shocking.
Therefore, there is a clear need for more careful tracking of budgets and expenditures throughout the year. There should be particular care to ensure that the allocations made for weaker sections and social sectors are utilised properly and adequately. To make this possible there should be greater transparency in matters concerning budget and expenditure particularly in the context of social sector and welfare of weaker sections.