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This Is How The Finance Minister Turned A Blind Eye To India’s Children In This Budget

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By Farhana Yasmin and Kumar Shailabh:

Children with their containers are silhouetted against the sun as they wait to fill drinking water from a water tanker provided by the state-run Delhi Jal (water) Board on a hot summer day in New Delhi, India, May 11, 2015. Temperature in Delhi on Monday reached 42.3 degree Celsius (108.14 degree Fahrenheit), according to India's metrological department website. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee - RTX1CFYJ
Image Credit: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee.

Amidst the global economic slowdown, Mr. Arun Jaitley in his Budget Speech indicated that India’s economy is stable and the GDP has accelerated to a commendable 7.6 per cent growth. On 29th February 2016, the NDA-led government presented its third Union Budget. In his Budget Speech, the Finance Minister mentioned that the “Plan Allocations have given special emphasis to sectors like agriculture, irrigation, social sector including health, women and child development, welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, minorities, infrastructure, etc.” But HAQ Centre For Child Rights’ analysis of the Union Budget through children’s perspective shows otherwise.

Before delving deeper into the analysis of the Budget, it is pertinent to note that children, in particular, did not find any mention in the Budget Speech. This compels one to question the Government’s perspective of ‘Inclusive Growth’ when one of the most marginalised and vulnerable sections get no attention at all.

This year, children received 3.32 per cent share [as per Statement 22 of Expenditure Budget Volume I] of the total financial allocations, which is a significant 13.54 percent jump from the previous year’s allocation (3.26 percent in 2014-15).

While this is a welcome increase in the overall budget for children, there are major reductions in some of the key programmes related to children belonging to minorities like ‘Pre-Matric Scholarship for Minorities’ (reduced by 10.48%), ‘Post Matric Scholarship for Minorities’ (reduced by 5.19%), ‘Scheme for Providing Education to Madrassas/Minorities’ (reduced by 68.04%), ‘Incentive to Children of Vulnerable Groups among Schedule Castes’ (reduced by 90%).

What is more, one of the two schemes addressing the needs of children with disabilities, ‘Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme’ saw a significant 25 percent reduction against the previous year’s allocation. While the nation is high on dreams of smart cities, GDP growth, digital literacy in rural India, Make in India, Startup India, with such reduced financial resources, would the children belonging to minorities or children with disabilities be included in this dream of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’?

Mr. Jaitley, in his Budget Speech mentioned that “after universalisation of primary education throughout the country, we want to take the next big step forward by focusing on the quality of education.” And yet, we see a mere 2.27 percent increase in funds allocated for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. This face-value increase must be examined in the light of findings of Economic Survey 2015-16. As per the Survey, there is a declining trend in the percentage of enrolment in government schools in rural areas from 72.9 percent in 2007 to 63.1 percent in 2014 and it emphasised upon the need to increase the percentage of enrolment substantially to achieve universalization of education. Can a mere 2.27% increase in the SSA budget from the previous year help address both decline in enrolment in government schools and improved quality of primary education?

Further, last year, the NDA government had announced the ‘Scheme for Setting up 6000 Model schools at block level as benchmark of excellence’ with great pride. It took just a year for the government to revisit its decision, and hence, no more model schools in 2016-17.

As against a 21.8% decline in the child health allocations last year, this year witnesses an increase of 3.6%. But, as a proportion of the Union Budget, it has declined from 0.13% in 2015-16 to 0.12% in 2016-17. The 2015-16 Economic Survey clearly notes that “while the achievements of the National Health Mission in reaching affordable healthcare services must be applauded, the need of universal healthcare, both in terms of access and quality remains a cause of concern.” As a share of the Union Budget, child health has seen a consistent decline over the last five years, going down from 0.18% in 2012-13 to 0.12% in 2016-17, showing the low priority accorded to this over the years. Right to health as a fundamental right remains a distant dream.

Another flagship scheme related to young children, the ‘Integrated Child Development Scheme’ (ICDS) has seen a boost of 68% against previous year’s allocation. This scheme has been allocated a total sum of Rs. 14,000 Crore. Though such an increase must be applauded, the mission document of ICDS has fixed a total requirement of Rs. 30,325 crore for universalisation of this scheme. There is still a huge shortfall of Rs. 16,325 crore, which must not be ignored. The allocation for ICDS must be seen in the context of restructuring of ICDS which needs additional investment with additional provisions in the system for covering children who get left out (e.g. migrants, transients). This will also necessitate revisiting the provisions for reaching underserved and unreached tribal settlements which may require specific budgetary allocations.

The only scheme related to child labour in Statement 22 is the ‘Scheme for the Welfare of Working Children in Need of Care and Protection’ observed a decrease of 70 percent in allocation in the 2016-17 Union Budget. It must be noted that India is home to 12.6 million child labourers (Census 2011) in the age group of 5-14 years.

Not only does the child protection sector remain the most under-resourced, the 2016-17 budget clearly does not offer much solace with the allocation for Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) down by 1.3%. ICPS has been allocated Rs. 397 Crore in 2016-17. The allocation was Rs. 402.23 Crore in the 2015-16 Budget. An increase in both crimes against children and by children make them even more vulnerable, and hence, this lack of attention to child protection is very disconcerting.

The Finance Minister seems to have already forgotten the warning from the Economic Survey 2015-16 which stated that “India is already halfway through its demographic dividend, and taking full advantage requires a healthy and educated population.”

What is more, the government seems to have forgotten its own commitment to inclusive growth. A mere increase from 3.26% to 3.32% cannot be a call for celebration when children remain unprotected and uncared for.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.”

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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.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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