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How The Government Has The Chance To Make It Up To India’s Children This Year

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By Anisha Ghosh and Farhana Yasmin:

child-marriage“India is progressing at a rapid pace,” said Narendra Modi during one of his recent speeches. He added that India was also the fastest growing economy among the larger economies of the world. The UN too, as if on cue, estimated that the Indian economy would grow by 7.3% in 2016. This is indeed a positive sign. But a nation such as ours cannot grow when it’s future, our children, are neglected. Inclusive growth is the need of the hour and must be the priority of the Government.

Even though children constitute about 36.68% of the country’s population (as per the 2011 Census), the total Union Budget allocation for children in the last 15 years has never gone above 5%. At a time when the UN Human Rights Council and the Sustainable Development Goals (that have replaced the Millennium Development Goals) talk about better investment in order to achieve developmental needs, India has been reducing its spending on children.

The Budget 2015-16 saw children receive an inadequate share of 3.26% out of the total allocation, a substantial reduction of 29% from the Budget 2014-15. Also, the allocations for Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) were cut down by almost 51% while the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) received 17% lesser allocations. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) too saw a 13% cut.

As a result, India’s children received a meager 0.13% share for health. Similarly, resources for child protection were the lowest yet again. However, the education sector received the largest share out of the budget for children. Interestingly, over the last few years, the major chunk of government financing of elementary and secondary education has been through the education cess. While this began as a measure to inject additional amounts to supplement government’s own support, it grew to be more of a substitute. This is a wrong practice and must be stopped. The decreasing share of the budget for children is a clear indicator of the lack of political will to commit to children’s issues.

Can We Afford These Cuts? What Is The Situation Of India’s Children?

1. Even though the overall sex ratio has shown an improvement, the child sex ratio has shown a declining trend. In Census 2011, the child sex ratio for 0-6 years is 914.
2. Nearly 1.73 million children die in India annually before completing their fifth birthday.
3. Nationally, the proportion of children (age 6 to 14) who are not enrolled in school has gone up slightly, from 3.3% in 2011 to 3.5% in 2012.
4. The percentage of SC & ST enrolment at the primary level in 2011-2012 is 19.80% (SC) and 19.92% (ST) of the total enrollment.
5. The drop-out rate in India is 40.6 % in 2010- 2011.
6. According to the trend exhibited during 1991-2001 (1991: 61.9% and 2001:76.4 %), India is likely to attain 100% youth literacy (literacy rate of 15-24-year-olds) by 2015.
7. As per the National Crime Records Bureau, the total incidence of crime against children in 2014 is 89,423 which is a 36.98% increase over 2013.
8. In 2014, the total number of cases of crimes committed by children is 38,565 which is a 107.54% increase over crimes committed by them in 2013. The share of crimes committed by children in the total cognisable crime committed is 1.18% which is a 0.02 point percentage decrease over 2013.

Despite the current situation, what we saw in the Budget 2015-16 were huge cuts even though the Finance Minister, Mr. Arun Jaitley had assured the government’s commitment towards the welfare of poor and that adequate provisions had been made for the schemes for ‘poor’ and ‘disadvantaged’. But the allocation of financial resources for social security programmes and particularly those for children reflected otherwise.

Scheme Percentage Fall in Allocation (between 2014-15 & 2015-16)
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan -20.74
Mid-Day Meal Scheme -30.11
Rashtriya Madhayamik Shiksha Abhiyaan -28.70
Scheme for Setting up of 6000 model school at block level as a benchmark of excellence -99.92
Support to education including teacher training -36.55
Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) -54.19
Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme -33.33
Manufacture of Sera Vaccine -18.03
National Rural Health Mission-Reproductive and Child Health programme (NRHM-RCH) Flexible Pool -21.63
National Programme for Youth and Development -28.75
Scheme for prevention of alcoholism and substance (drug) abuse -66.81

 

This cut in the Union Budget 2015-16 is due to the acceptance of the Fourteenth Finance Commission (FFC). The FFC recommended that share of the States in the divisible pool of taxes should be increased to 42% from 32%. Therefore, in the current scenario, it is expected that States should enhance their own resources and give priority to social sector spending.

What remains a matter of concern is that if the Centre stops funding the major Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS), would States still give priority to the ongoing developmental programmes/schemes launched to address children’s issues in a time bound manner?

Whatever little is allocated remains unspent, affecting the implementation of some of the important schemes, as a result, ignoring children’s rights.

What Must The Government Ensure For Children In The Upcoming Budget 2016-17?

Many, including Nobel Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi are advocating for children’s right to adequate budget allocation and are demanding more investment in the upcoming Budget. Some of the more specific demands that the Government must focus on are as follows:

1. Allocations of financial resources for the key nodal Ministries such as MWCD, MHRD and MoHFW and flagship schemes (such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Scheme, Integrated Child Protection Scheme, Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan etc.) related to children must go up in Union Budget 2016-17.

2. Children related legislation and commitments must have financial backing and be adequately resourced in the upcoming Budget. For example, Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences 2012, one of the most effective legislation enacted to combat child sexual abuse does not have any financial backing built into the budget. As a result, state governments struggle to find resources to meet requirements of special educators, translators and interpreters, or to set up special courts with child-friendly infrastructure etc.

3. Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) introduced in the Eleventh Plan, was envisaged to create a protective environment for children in the country. However, the delayed rolling out of the programme and inadequate resources allocated to it has meant that the scheme remains ineffectively implemented. The newly enacted Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, an important part of ICPS, has brought in new developments for assessment and rehabilitation of young offenders through serious interventions through experts, psychologists, counsellors etc. This additional responsibility requires more funds than what is currently available.

4. The Central government should be the primary duty bearer to implement the Centrally Assisted Schemes related to children. As highlighted in the Chief Minister’s Sub Group Report on CSS, children related schemes are one of the critical elements of National Development Agenda and as per the recommendation, these programmes must be kept in the ‘Core of the Core Schemes’ category and Centre should finance these schemes majorly.

5. When we talk of inclusive growth, are we paying due attention to the needs of those children with disability? Specific services of habilitation and rehabilitation, required for full development of children with disabilities, continue to be unavailable to the majority of children. Rehabilitation services do not reach even a small number of children with disabilities because of the way they are designed. Even though the Right to Education Act 2009 makes specific mention of children with disability, the education system doesn’t still have the capacity to include them. The government must ensure the rights of the disabled children.

While we proudly claim to be a nation with the fastest growing economy, seeking to be a global leader in the coming years, we mustn’t forget that India has the world’s largest youth population. It is the government’s responsibility to ensure its young citizens get their basic human rights.

Therefore, is it justifiable for the Government to spend a paltry sum of 3 rupees and 26 paise out of every 100 rupees on those who will lead the nation tomorrow?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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