How Significant Cuts Were Made in Allocations of Crucial Ministries and Departments Last Year

Budget Nirmala Sitaraman 1

While most of the budget discussion is understandably concentrated on the financial year ahead of us, it is important to have an understanding also of the previous year’s experiences. An important aspect of this relates to significant cuts made in the allocations of various union ministries and departments of crucial importance during the previous financial year 2022-23, with hardly any public consultation or debate preceding this, or reasons of significant cuts being explained in a transparent way. This can be seen by comparing the original allocation called the Budget Estimate (BE) with the Revised Estimate (RE). All data is in INR crore ( one crore=10 million).

In particular it is a matter of serious concern that at a time when health needs were being emphasized so much, around the same time budgets of various ministries/ departments related to health issues were being cut. In the case of the extremely important Department of Health and Family Welfare the Budget Estimate (BE) of financial year 2022-23 was INR 83,000 crore but this was cut to a Revised Estimate (RE) of INR 76,370 crore. In the case of the Department of Health Research the percentage cut was even higher from INR 3200 crore to INR 2775 crore. What is perhaps even more surprising is that even in the case of the Ministry of Ayush, for which the union government is supposed to have a soft corner, there was a cut from INR 3050 cr. to 2845 cr.

Another stated priority is of agriculture and related sectors, but here too we see cuts in allocations for four important departments related to these issues. In the case of the Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, the cut was from B.E of INR 124,000 crore to 110,254 crore, or a significant cut of over INR 13,000 crore. In the case of the Dept. of Animal Husbandry and Dairying the cut was from INR 3918 cr. to INR 3105 cr. In the case of the Department of Fisheries the cut was from INR 2118 crore to INR 1624 crore. In the case of the Department of Land Resources the cut was from INR 2259 crore to INR 1260 crore, certainly a big reduction.

Coming to vulnerable groups, in the context of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the BE of INR 8451 crore got reduced to RE of INR of 7301 crore. Regarding the Ministry of Women and Child Development, there was a cut from INR 25172 crore to INR 23912 crore. The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities experienced a cut from INR 1212 crore to INR  1015 crore.

Regarding the obviously very important Department of School  Education and Literacy there was a cut from INR 63449 crore to INR 59052 crore. In the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports there was a cut from INR 3062 crore to INR 2673 crore.

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has an increasingly important role but experienced a cut from INR 3030 crore to INR 2478 crore. The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation had a cut from INR 67221 crore to INR 60029 crore. The Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation had a cut from INR 18,967 crore INR 14,000 crore.

The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship experienced a cut from INR 2999 crore to INR 1901 crore, a big cut.

In the case of the Ministry of Micro, Medium and Small Enterprises,  there was a cut from INR 21422 crore to INR 15628 crore.

Despite the obvious importance of the Department of Space, there was a big cut from INR 13,700 crore to INR 10,530 crore. In the case of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, there was a cut from INR 2653 crore to INR 2056 crore. The Department of Science and Technology witnessed a cut from BE of INR 6000 crore to RE of 4904 crore.

In some cases cuts have been huge. The Ministry of Textiles experienced perhaps the biggest cut in percentage terms from INR 12382 crore to INR 3579 crore. In the Ministry of Tourism there was a cut from INR 2400 crore to INR 1343 crore. In the Department of Consumer affairs, despite its obvious importance in providing  relief from inflation, there was a cut from INR 1724 crore to INR 219 crore.

Several of such cuts have been made at a time of no sudden resource constraints or other such unexpected constraints, and it is difficult to understand their rationale, if any. In all cases of such big cuts particularly but also in the case of other significant cuts, clearly there should have been much more public and parliamentary consultation instead of such a wide range of cuts in very important sectors being made in an arbitrary and non-transparent way. Even if there are very specific reasons for such cuts or if these are related to one or more schemes being shifted to some other ministry or department, this should be clearly mentioned.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include ‘Man over Machine—Gandhi’s Path of Peace’ and ‘Protecting Earth for Children’.

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