New Delhi, 2 February. Welcoming this year’s somewhat improved Union budget for children, Bal Raksha Bharat points out that the Right to Education Act (RTE) was not mentioned at all in the Budget speech; and feels that the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) deserved more than Rs. 650 crore this year — which is merely an increase of Rs. 50 crore from last year.
“Bal Raksha Bharat commends the government for allocating increased resources for the welfare of children,” said Thomas Chandy, CEO, Bal Raksha Bharat. “However, there remains an urgent need to maintain sharp focus on the rights of more than 40 crore children in India; and to monitor the effective implementation of various schemes and policies at state levels.” The increase of Rs. 28,104 crore in the total allocation towards women and children under different ministries is a positive step, felt the non-profit. This year’s allocation has been raised to Rs. 1,84,632 crore from Rs. 1,56,528 crore in Budget Estimates 2016-17.
Out of this Rs. 1,84,632 crore, children’s share is Rs. 71,305 crore — as compared to Rs. 66,249 crore last year. The percentage growth in the total Union Budget compared to last year is 8.5%. Therefore the budget for children’s growth of 7.6% as compared to last year is a much-needed correction in terms of fiscal allocation for the welfare of children. The increase of 25% in ICDS allocation shows government’s focus on fighting malnutrition, however, the smoothness of funds flow to the states for its efficient function will need to be monitored.
Child protection remains an area of major concern. Raising the allocation for ICPS by only Rs. 50 crore, the government has allocated Rs. 650 crore this year. This is a pittance since there are more than 600 districts in the country, thus, in real terms this will mean Rs. 1 crore has been allocated per district. However, since crimes are not distributed equally across these 618 districts, this amount is negligible to stem the increasing number of crimes against children. It is also disappointing that the government has not increased allocations for ICPS while opening up new categories for child labour under the new Child Labour Act. The new Juvenile Justice Act also needed extra funds but this has not been accommodated in the budget.
While it was surprising that the RTE Act was not mentioned even once in the Budget speech, Bal Raksha Bharat commends the Finance Minister for highlighting the issue of falling annual learning outcomes. Bal Raksha Bharat hopes that the budget will tackle this problem in depth and with the seriousness it deserves to reap the India’s demographic dividend. The 23% increase in funds dedicated for training of teachers is a welcome step as this is a move towards improving learning outcomes.
The National Health Mission received an increase of 20% in allocations as compared to last year. This is in line with civil society’s recommendations to raise investments in basic health services. The government’s seriousness is also reflected in the significant increase towards employing more trained health professionals by increasing the budget for this by 168%.
It was heartening to see the problem of long-term diseases being addressed in the budget. Kala Azar has been a killer of children for centuries and so has been measles and tuberculosis. Bal Raksha Bharat commends the government’s ambition to eliminate these diseases by 2017, 2020, and 2025 respectively.
Bal Raksha Bharat works across 20 states of India and it focusses on issues related to education, health, protection and humanitarian/DRR needs of children, especially for those who are the most deprived and marginalized children.
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