World Radio Day…Union Budget 2021!!

February, 2021

Dear Friends

The 1st message I received on 1st February was from All India Radio, FM Rainbow 101.3 asking if I could share my thoughts on the Union Budget 2021 during an evening programme. I was sceptical if I could do justice and that too in Kannada. However, when Dr. Shankaranarayana, the Station Director assured me that I need to focus only on the women & children bit, I was slightly relieved. I heard intently to the Hon’ble Finance Minister Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman as she quoted Tagore’s lines “Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.” I heard her announcing that the budget is constructed on the 6 pillars of health and well-being, physical, financial capital and infrastructure, inclusive development for aspirational India, reinvigorating human capital, innovation and R&D and minimum government and maximum governance. I caught the Minister talking about incentives for gig workers and night shift facility for women, which meant more women could enter and stay in the workforce, thanks to safety and security measures that employers are to provide. I listened carefully to the tax proposals but didn’t find anything specific to women and children. I was a bit nervous wondering what will I speak on the radio that evening. As they say, one hears only what one wants to. Only when Dr. Shankaranarayana (who incidentally is a qualified Company Secretary !) highlighted ‘Mission Poshan’ did I realise that I am guilty of focussing on the ‘India’ side of the Budget and ignoring the ‘Bharat’ side. Poshan 2.0 scheme in an umbrella scheme covering the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Anganwadi Services, Poshan Abhiyaan, Scheme For Adolescent Girls and National Creche Scheme, with an outlay of Rs. 20,105 crore

It struck me that there is lot more to focus than just corporates and tax proposals. My thoughts travelled back to how my maid’s daughters looked forward to attending school only because of the mid-day meals scheme that ensured milk, eggs and a hot meal. With the pandemic shutting down schools, meals were the first calamity. Many such children were forced to go hungry and back to villages to work in the fields or worse still – to be married away underaged. That evening I connected the dots and emphasised on how Mission Poshan 2.0 could also get the children back to schools, how the spurt in girl-child marriages during the pandemic could be quelled through some of the schemes. The reasons and triggers for malnutrition, school drop-outs, child-marriage, early motherhood, failing health, poverty, rising debts – all are closely intertwined in a complex web that requires both Government intervention and societal efforts. The next morning when Lakshmi, my house-maid announced that while she didn’t understand most of what I spoke about the Budget, but caught my statement on child-marriage and malnutrition, I felt my 10 minute talk on the radio was worth it. I re-emphasised to her as to why she must allow her daughter to choose education and financial independence over marriage and children.



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