“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.
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.
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?