Social sector groups today demanded doubling of allocation towards the health sector and higher rate of sin tax on tobacco products and alcohol in the 2016-17 Budget.
In their pre-budget meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, representatives from social sector sought allocation under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) be increased by Rs 5,000 crore and spending of 10 per cent of the GDP on the education sector.
HelpAge India Board member Mathew Cherian said the government should develop health facilities on a mission mode to make it more meaningful on the ground and inclusion of older persons in employment guarantee schemes like MNREGA.
“Most of the suggestions centred around social security schemes and Rashtriya Bima Yojana. We have asked for Rs 5,000 crore additional funds under MNREGA, because there was drought and no work for poor people,” Cherian said.
The representatives also asked to double spending on healthcare to match global standards.
“Right now spending on health is 1.2 percent. It should be at least 2.5 percent,” Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, Chief Executive Voluntary Health Association of India, said.
They highlighted that India has one of the lowest per capita investment in health sector and is facing danger from both communicable and non-communicable diseases.
“Non-communicable diseases are arising out of sin products like tobacco and alcohol. So we recommended specific taxation of tobacco products, particularly cigarettes, ‘bidi’ and smokeless products. We want excise duty to be doubled,” Mukhopadhyay said.
The representatives also said the revenue generated from extra duties on sin products should be utilised for the development of workers who manufacture such products.
HelpAge India also demanded that central allocation for old age pension be increased to Rs 500 per month per person for those between 60-79 years and Rs 1,000 per month for those over the age of 80 years. Right to Education (RTE) Forum national convener Ambarish Rai said the Centre should increase spending on education to 10 per cent of the GDP, from 4 per cent at present.
RTE Forum also called for need to increase budgetary allocation in secondary education and universalise education for children up to 18 years. They also pitched for recruiting trained and qualified teachers in government schools as there is a shortage of over 9 lakh teachers.