New Delhi: In 2019, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her maiden budget, broke the long-standing tradition of carrying a briefcase with budget documents and instead use a red cloth bag, like the traditional bahi-khata. As Budget 2020 is presented today, experts and environmentalists hope that this time around Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman breaks the tradition and presents a budget that focuses on issues like the environment, health, and nutrition.
On the environment front, according to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, India generate approximately 62 million tonnes of trash a year, of which, 43 million tonnes of the waste gets collected, whereas, mere 11.9 million tonnes is treated and 31 million tonnes is straight away dumped in landfill sites.
On the other hand, according to the State of Global Air Report of 2019, air pollution has been the third leading risk factor for mortality, accounting for more than 12 Lakh deaths in India in 2017 alone. Not just that, this figure was an increase of about 1.09 Lakh from 2010.
Another major issue has been raising instances of hunger in India. As per the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2019 (Index that comprehensively tracks and measures hunger across the world), India has been ranked 102 out of the qualifying 117 countries that were assessed. India’s rating this year has been poor with a score of 30.3 which according to their guidelines, falls in ‘serious’ category*. India’s neighbouring countries, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh have secured a better rank than India. Nepal’s rank is 73, while, Bangladesh and Pakistan are ranked 88 and 94 respectively.
In this context here’s what is on the budget 2020 wishlist of experts and environmentalists for a swachh and swasth India:
1. Focus On Infrastructure For Effective Waste Management
Experts feel this year’s Budget should focus on infrastructural developments for achieving effective waste management in India. Explaining the same, Nalini Shekar, a social activist and a founder of Hasiru Dala (Green Force), a non-profit organisation that is helping marginalised waste pickers in Bengaluru, said,
Waste segregation campaigning has been going on since 2017, yet we have not seen the desired result when it comes to segregating waste. Budget 2020 should focus on setting up decentralised infrastructures for effective waste management.
Chitra Mukherjee, Head, Advocacy and Policy, Chintan, an environmental NGO that works for environmental sustainability too underlined the importance of building decentralised waste management infrastructures around the country and said that the government should focus on building structures where waste can be managed well via composting or recycling.
2. To Encourage Circular Economy, Incentivise Composting And Lower Tax Slabs For Eco-friendly Products
Experts want the government to encourage the use of eco-friendly or recycled products. Swati Singh Sambyal, Programme Manager, Environmental Governance (Waste Management), Centre for Science and Environment says,
I am hoping in order to encourage circular economy, recycling and reuse of resources, the tax slabs for virgin material should be kept much higher as compared to waste/recycled material.
On the other hand, Chitra Mukherjee, Head, Advocacy and Policy, Chintan added that the government in this year’s budget should give importance on incentives for composting, subsidies to sustainable technologies.
3. Combat Air Pollution And Strengthen Public Transportation
Air Pollution has become one of India’s leading environmental concerns. A recent report by Greenpeace India said 231 out of 287 Indian cities are severely polluted. Vivek Chattopadhyay, air pollution expert at the Centre of Science and Environment says that there is a need for improving public transport in the country so that overall vehicular emission can be reduced.
MR Chattopadhyay hopes this year’s budget will allocate enough budget for enhancing public transportation system of the country. Along with this, he emphasized on electrification of public transport at a faster pace. He added,
While in the previous budget the government tried to reduce the cost of EVs to some extent but these vehicles are still unaffordable for a large section of the society.
3. For A Swasth India There Should Be One Department For Nutrition And Greater Accountability
Currently, nutrition and its budget allocation have been distributed under various departments. Highlighting the issue with this, Om Prakash Singh, Head of Programme Implementation, Health and Nutrition, Save The Children adds,
No one department is accountable or responsible for different nutrition schemes currently in action. Nutrition is dependent on multi-sectoral and multi-departmental efforts. Putting nutrition in the limelight, this year’s budget should focus on combining all the schemes of nutrition under one sector and committee so that there are greater transparency and allocation thereby ensuring the beneficiary is receiving the facilities or nutrition support.
5. To Make India Free Of Hunger Include Urban Poor
India’S hunger problem is not new – Om Prakash Singh, Head of Programme Implementation, Health and Nutrition, at Save The Children stressed on involving urban poor as well in India’s already implemented schemes to tackle hunger problems. He said,
We often focus on rural areas, providing health and nutrition to people residing in villages. But what about the urban poor? The nutritional needs of children and pregnant women there are hardly met. We need to focus on reaching out on reaching to the most vulnerable and marginalised section of the society, only then we can tackle the issue of hunger in the country.