Social sector groups have pitched for higher allocation towards healthcare, education and rural employment, a demand which Finance Minister Arun Jaitley promised to take into account in the 2016-17 Budget.
In their pre-Budget meeting, the representatives from the social sector demanded a higher rate of sin tax on tobacco products, alcohol and an increase in old age pension from Rs 200 to Rs 500.
They also demanded an increase in widow pension and inclusion of grandparents as a separate entity under Rashtriya Swasthaya Bima Yojana (RSBY).
In his opening remarks, Jaitley said the "inclusive growth is high on the priorities and the government will take adequate measures to ensure social security for the children, women and senior citizens of the country".
To address violence against women, the social sector groups suggested making adequate budgetary outlays in the forthcoming Budget for implementation of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, assistance for construction of shelter homes for single woman/destitute and widows.
HelpAge India Board member Mathew Cherian wanted 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 told reporters.
The representatives also asked for doubling spending on healthcare to match global standards. "Right now, spending on health is 1.2%. It should be at least 2.5%," Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, Chief Executive of Voluntary Health Association of India, said.
They highlighted that India has one of the lowest per capita investments in the health sector and is facing risks 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.
HelpAge India demanded that allocation for old age pension be increased to Rs 500 per month for those between 60- 79 years and Rs 1,000 per month for those over 80 years.
Right to Education (RTE) Forum national convener Ambarish Rai said the Centre should increase spending on education to 10% of GDP, from 4% at present, and also a higher allocation for Integrated Child Protection Schemes.