The Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, presented the Union Budget—with a slew of announcements, including revision of income tax slabs, lab development, facilitating inclusive growth, reduction of certain customs duties, and the creation of a green economy.
FM began by calling this the ‘first Budget of Amrit Kaal’ and a blueprint for India@100 that revolves around seven main priorities, which form the ‘Saptarishis’ guiding her outlook. Poising India’s growth at 7%, she further noted that the world has recognized the Indian economy as a bright star that is headed
towards a bright future.
But the important question that needs to be raised here is, whether this growth target can really be achieved without women, who comprise about half of India’s population. It is therefore important to understand, what the Union Budget 2023 has brought for the women in India and how it seeks to
empower them—another aspect highlighted in Sitharaman’s speech.
To begin with, prioritizing rural income growth and financial independence, the Union budget 2023 has enabled women self-help groups (SHGs) to reach to the next stage of economic empowerment by providing them with raw material supply, branding, marketing of products, etc.
This is an extremely important step because SHGs have the potential to play a transformative role in engaging women—as it has already been exemplified during the COVID-19 pandemic—and can therefore, further help in widening women’s labor force participation in the near future.
During her speech, the Finance Minister also announced the launch of a new one-time small saving scheme for women. The scheme will be called the Mahila Samman Saving certificate, which will be available till March 2025 and offer a fixed rate of interest at 7.5 percent.
Under this scheme, a deposit of up to 2 lakhs can either be made in the name of a woman or a girl child for a maximum of a two-year tenure. Besides, the scheme also entails a partial withdrawal option to help women in emergency situations, thereby making it an important financially benefitting scheme for Indian women.
Adding on, the income tax slabs announced under the new tax regime are also likely to benefit salaried women and those engaged in formal employment—particularly from the middle-class background—enhancing their capacity to save and take better investment decisions. As per the new tax regime, women in fact, earning up to 7 lakhs will not be required to pay a tax in comparison to those earning 5 lakhs who were exempted from paying taxes under the old tax regime.
Inferring from these pointers, one can clearly say that this year’s budget has made a convincing attempt to strengthen financial independence and facilitate the economic empowerment of women by providing them with greater resources and access.