New Delhi/Kolkata, March 1: The Union Budget 2016 has been discussed in details for its focus on the rural sector but not expanding the limits of income-tax relief and also imposing partial tax on an important component like provident fund, but has any media spoken about what this Budget has done for the children of our country?
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Although the Budget has considerably increased outlays for the social sector, yet the children, who do not vote, remain to be at the fringe of policy discussions, interface and allocations.
With health and education forming an important pillar for transformation of India, there was a big opportunity to redraw the future of this country by means of focusing on children but in reality, the trend of decreasing allocations for children within the social sector has continued in this year's Budget as well.
Allocations for children that were above five per cent of the Union Budget of 2011-12 and 2012-13 have steadily deceased over the years and in 2016-17, it has come down to a disappointing 3.32 per cent, though it is a marginal increase of 0.06 per cent from that of 2015-16, according to an analysis of CRY (Child Rights and You), a Kolkata-based NGO that works for children.
The 2016-17 scenario in children's budget
This year, the absolute amount in the child budget has increased from Rs 58,017 (2015-16) crore to Rs 65,758 crore. It may be noted that as part of the financial devolution to states in the last fiscal, allocations for the social sector have sharply gone down, with allocations in schemes like Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan decreasing by 30 per cent and more.
Maximum allocation for child education, minimum for child protection
Allocations for the ICDS scheme was raised from Rs 8,338 crore to Rs 15,484 crore, thanks to the supplementary grants released in December 2015, said the analysis. But this year saw again a reduction in the scheme by Rs 1,484 crore. Within the child budget allocations in 2016-17, child education has seen the maximum allocation (72.2 per cent), followed by the child development (22.87 per cent), child health (3.59 per cent) and child protection (1.32 per cent).
Within child education, the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan scheme has seen the maximum rise in funds allocated (Rs 517 crore), followed by the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (Rs 500 crore), midday meal (Rs 464 crore) and Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (Rs 410 crore) schemes.
In child health, allocation went up from Rs 2,270 crore to Rs 2,360 crore. Nearly 90 per cent of this amount is allocated towards implementation of the NRHM-RCH (Reproductive and Child Health) scheme which includes other expenditure-related components not directed to children, the CRY analysis said.
Trends in child malnutrition care, though have improved, but are nowhere near recovery. In the latest partial release, survey results of NFHS IV shows that the status of nutrition for children under five has seen only marginal improvement, the CRY analysis said.
The issue of child protection, too, was not high on the priority even with rising anxieties related to child safety and an enabling environment for children.
The Integrated Child Protection scheme which includes adoption, foster care, all child care institutions, and initiatives related to children in conflict with law, can do with intensive investments that have never been provided for setting up of a truly enabling environment for children who may be in a vulnerable state or those who need to be diverted from circumstances that may lead them wayward.
The new Juvenile Justice Act 2015 will create more challenges for the existing child protection framework and the implementing agencies. The scheme has seen a reduction of Rs 5 crore (from Rs 402 crore to Rs 397 crore) which shows our lack of commitment towards our vulnerable and marginalised hildren.
Komal Ganotra, Director, Policy, Research and Advocacy of CRY said: "The non-voting population of the country has yet again not received adequate resources in the Union Budget 2016-17. The increased outlays in social sector in the 2016-17 Union Budget has focussed marginally on children's issues. This year, the child budget of Rs 65,758.45 crore has seen an increase of Rs 1,123.36 crore over Budget of Rs 64635.09 crore in 2015-16. More than 75% of this increased budget is in the schemes of Mid Day Meal---Rs 464 crore and National Nutrition Mission---Rs 360 crores."