Nearly 5% of India's total Union Budget 2020-21 would be spent on schemes that benefit women, stated the gender budget for the year. Amounting to Rs 1.4 lakh crore ($19 billion) in 2020-21, the gender budget includes allocations made by different ministries for schemes that fully or partially benefit women.

Gender-responsive budgeting, along with supportive laws and other policy measures, could help governments track whether public funds are effectively allocated in furthering gender equality and empowering women. India was ranked 112th of 153 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index 2020.

India started releasing a Gender Budget along with the Union Budget in 2005-06. Ahead of the Union Budget 2021-22, we analyse how useful, or not, gender budgets have proved to be.

Over the last 16 years, India's Gender Budget has increased from Rs 24,241 crore ($5.5 billion) in 2005-06 to Rs 1,43,462 crore ($19 billion) in 2020-21, a six-fold increase in absolute terms. However, in the last 13 years, the allocations as a proportion to the total budget have stayed constant between 4.3% and 5.9%. The allocation was less than 5% of the total budget in five of the last six years.

The composition of the Gender Budget highlights the government's focus areas and the efforts made to close the gender gap. Over the last three years, five schemes--the rural jobs programme called the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the rural housing scheme called the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), the Anganwadi Services Scheme that is a part of the early childhood care and development programme, the school education programme called the Samagra Shiksha and the Health Systems Strengthening under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM)--have made up half of the total Gender Budget allocations.

The PMAY alone constituted nearly 70% of the allocations in Part A and 14% of the total Gender Budget.

The fact that 10% of the Gender Budget was earmarked for rural housing schemes for women irked experts because while the scheme might benefit women, the houses may not always be owned by women. "Allocations for PMAY are considered 100% for Gender Budget as the houses are encouraged to be in the names of women," said Avani Kapur, director of Accountability Initiative, a research organisation based in Delhi, "But no one is really monitoring or seeing the extent to which that is being done or the difference it is actually making on the ground.

Read the full article about India's gender budget by Shreya Raman at IndiaSpend.