CYSD organises pre-budget consultation

Social sector, healthcare, natural farming need more focus in the State Budget 2022-23 to address Covid crisis: Panelists
Bhubaneswar : Odisha should take judicious budgetary decisions to address the Covid-19 crisis while focusing on the social security issues. The expenditure on social sector should be increased to 50 per cent of total budget to take care of emerging needs, opined the panelists and people’s representatives during a webinar on Pre-Budget Consultation – People’s Priorities in Odisha State Budget 2022-23.
The webinar jointly organised by the Centre for Youth and Social Development (CYSD) and the Odisha Budget and Accountability Centre was hosted by the CYSD here on Wednesday.
The outcome of this consultation will be submitted to the government, said CYSD co-founder Jagadananda, who moderated the webinar. “We are hopeful that like every year, this year too, the budget will include our proposals for the inclusive development of the state,” he added.
Even though there has been increased budget allocation for health due to the pandemic, the primary healthcare needs have been unaddressed. The public health expenditure should go up to 7-8 per cent in total state budget, with increased emphasis on primary healthcare, pointed out the panelists.
They pitched for an umbrella scheme both for diagnosis and treatment. All the schemes designed for diagnosis and treatment at the public health facilities free of cost need to be subsumed into a single window for better transparency and accountability. A grievance mechanism needs to be in place to address the cases of health rights violations and poor health infrastructure, they said.
While budgetary allocation should be there to properly implement schemes like Jal Jeevan Mission and Basudha to provide piped-water supply to households, provisions should be made for spot water sources to ensure water security in mountainous regions, where piped water supply is difficult. The panelists also emphacised on increased budget allocation for establishment of water quality monitoring labs at block headquarters and mobile water testing laboratories in village and panchayat levels.
Retrofitting and maintenance of toilet for the differently-abled people and children at public places and at household levels should be given priority in the budget, they maintained.
The state budget must look at enhanced allocation for the disability sector in view of the fact that a substantive reduction has been made in the last Union Budget for this sector.
As the modern agricultural practices are negatively impacting the environment, the budgetary provisions must give priority to ensure that traditional, natural and organic farming practices are encouraged and adopted in a mission mode, pointed out the panelists.
The budget should also have adequate provision for establishment of post-harvest infrastructures and processing units especially for dairy, poultry, fishery and perishable horticultural produce. Besides, there should be strategic intervention through Agriculture Production Clusters in a mission mode to boost floriculture. The speakers emphacised on significant budgetary provision for capacity building of farmers and farmer-producer organisations; professionally managed marketing structure; and promoting solar irrigation systems.
Focusing on public education system that has been suffered due to school closures, the panelists pointed out the budget should have necessary provisions to bring the children back to schools. Budget provisions need to be made to strengthen the digital infrastructure, availability of digital devices and improving digital education in backward areas. Capacity building of school management committee and digital fitness of school teachers also need budget provisioning.
The upcoming budget should also have provisions to address women issues at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the crisis of violence against women. Capacity building of agencies tackling Crime Against Women (CAW); awareness of frontline workers to deal with atrocity cases at community level; and resources for establishing Gender Budget Cells in the Departments need adequate resources.
Resources should be earmarked for establishing gender budget cells in all departments; facilitating generation of gender disaggregated data on beneficiaries; and piloting of gender-based planning and budgeting at the panchayat level and gender auditing of the schemes. More numbers of one-stop-centres (SAKHI) should be established for violence survivors with direct transfer provisions as survival support of the victims.
An increase in budgetary provision to raise the minimum wage will encourage people to work under MGNREGS, opined the speakers. Odisha has increased the MGNREGS wage putting it at par with the minimum wage rate (Rs 286.30) with 200 days of work in 20 blocks of Odisha. This needs to be scaled up for the entire state. Small and marginal farmers may be provided with 150 days of employment under MGNREGS to develop infrastructure on their own farms and watershed programmes in the hilly regions of the state.
Other social security priorities the budget should include strengthening of gram panchayats; preparation of five-year Covid recovery plan, establishment of panchayat-level livelihood facilitation centres and universalisation of social security.
The panelists also emphacised that the state should advocate with the Union Govt for imposition of Wealth Tax on super-rich individuals and entities to enrich the state quota on this new fund for targeted development of backward regions.
Joint Secretary of Dept of Finance Dr Satyapriya Rath; Former Chairman of the State Finance Commission Prof Sudhakar Panda; Dr. Navaneeta Ratha of Sociology Department, Utkal University; Dr Amarendra Dash from the School of Humanities & Social Science, NISER, Bhubaneswar; and Economist Dr Pravas Mishra joined as panelists in the webinar.
Around 150 civil society leaders from rural, urban and tribal pockets, academia and government organizations also participated in the consultation.