After the tabling and presentation of the financial budget of the term 2016-17 by the Indian government, in a profounding statement released by Komal Ganotra, Director, Policy, Research and Advocacy, CRY, it was quoted as: “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 focused marginally on children’s issues.”
What led to such a statement that reeks in disappointment? What were the expectations that the government failed to deliver upon? In association with Child Rights and You (CRY), the nation-wide NGO which leads the crusade for the protection of children’s rights across different parts of India, this blogpost is the first of the two-blogpost series, that intends to take into account the expectations regarding the allocation of the child budget of this financial term for the 333.2 million children, who by their sheer numbers and importance, have a significant 40% share of the Indian population. In the background of the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, and changing ratios and fund devolutions, it is clear that states have differential absorption as well as fund allocation capacities. This year will be crucial to see how the budgetary restructuring is likely to impact children. The budgetary allocations for children should reflect the government’s intent of treating children as “supremely important assets”.
According to CRY, for the citizens under 18, the children, here are the 18 expectations that are liable to be expected from this year’s budget:
For the age group of 0-6 years
- Increased budget and coverage under ICDS: Allocation for the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) needs timely and sufficient budgetary allocations, so that all six services of the ICDS are effectively implemented and the ICDS is properly restructured.
- Investment in skilled anganwadi workers: Budgetary investment in skilled human resources is non-negotiable to ensure health and development of these children.
- Budget to fight against hunger and malnutrition: Focused investment needs to be carried out for addressing the problem of under-nutrition.
- Complete immunization coverage: The government should ensure adequacy of investment to achieve the goals envisaged in Mission Indradhanush. Also, while finalizing the National Health Policy 2015, the government should define a plan for investments in improving the health of children.
For the age group of 6-14 years
- Budgets to bridge infrastructure gaps in RTE: The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009 has finished five years now. However, three-year and five-year targets of the RTE Act have not been successfully met.
- Increased resources for qualified teachers: The next phase of the RTE will undoubtedly require focusing on aspects of quality teaching and improving learning outcomes.
- Enhance allocation to make primary education more inclusive: There have been major gaps in terms of equity and inclusion in education, with retention rates of 49.3 per cent and 64.5 per cent among tribal children and schedule castes respectively. There is a dire need to fill these gaps in order to make primary education more inclusive.
- Mid-day meal: Adequate allocations should be made so that the quality of food is never compromised. A robust mechanism is also required to carry out proper monitoring and a regular transfer of funds without any delay.
- Adequate budgetary provisions for New Education Policy: India’s education policy is undergoing a revision after 30 years, and the New Education Policy 2015 has tremendous potential and would directly impact a significant percentage of India’s population.
- Investment to prevent crime against children: India needs to evolve a robust child protection system especially at the rural level. Investments on the training of staff and building greater awareness are the prerequisites for bringing about a safe environment for children.
- Investment to stop child labour: There is a need to invest a lot of resources for children in this age group in order to keep them away from laborious work and other forms of vulnerabilities.
For 15-18 years
- Step up investment in secondary education: India currently has 78.5 per cent gross enrolment ratio and only 48 per cent net enrolment ratio. Greater investment in secondary education is thus extremely necessary.
- Sufficient budgetary allocation for RMSA: The budgetary allocation of Rashtiya Madhyamik Sikshan Abhiyan (RMSA) should factor given that it would strengthen the framework of elementary education.
- Integrated allocation plan towards making education inclusive: The dropout rate is higher among the most marginalized population, with a large number of children with special needs dropping out of schooling midway. Addressing the needs of children with disabilities and bridging gender disparity is the need of the hour.
- Combating child marriage: At the state level, implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act is not uniform as many states do not have proper rules in place. The Act needs to be backed by human and budgetary resources for protecting the rights of children.
- Adequate funds for ICPS: Implementation of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) has finally picked up; however funds allocation needs to be substantially increased this year, for the scheme to percolate in all districts and village level.
- Investment in POCSO: The Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 though enacted, has yet to see its implementation in spirit. We need to ensure we live in a society with “zero tolerance” for violence against children.
- Empowering children: Secondary education, vocational education and skill-building are imperative for a nation’s progress.
So when such a statement comes from the director of an NGO, which is known nation-wide, working for the securing and protection of the children’s rights, you know, this year’s child budget has gone gravely wrong somewhere along, yet again. What has been the government’s child budget for this year’s financial term? How much has it failed to deliver upon the expectations? How bleak does the situation look now? Watch this space to know more.