Budget 2015: Uphold child rights for the ‘right’ future

At least 10 per cent of Union budget for children if they are to get proper education, nutrition and protection

 
By Puja Marwaha
Last Updated: Sunday 28 June 2015

At least 10 per cent of Union budget for children if they are to get proper education, nutrition and protection

With just a couple of days for the first Union budget of the government, expectations are high. It is time for the government to seriously consider child rights indicators and duly prioritise entitlements for children, especially those belonging to the most marginalised groups. The needs of the children of the nation are paramount, and prioritising financial resource allocations towards fulfilling these cannot be emphasised enough.

Starting from 2012-13, the share of child budget has been marginally decreasing from a high of 4.75 per cent (2012-13 revised estimates or RE) to 4.56 per cent (2013-14 RE) and now at 4.52 per cent (2014-15 budget estimates or BE). Given that children comprise approximately 40 per cent of India’s population, the consistently low allocations of below 5 per cent of the total Union budget towards their requirements needs serious reflection and appropriate intervention.  

A close look at various child rights indicators illustrates the urgency of the moment. The Right to Education (RTE) Act was brought into force in 2010, with specified norms and indicators of school-level facilities, infrastructure, and availability of teachers. While commendable progress has been made in improvement of enrolment-related statistics, we are still a long way from meeting the RTE objective of all children in school. An estimated 6.04 million children in the age group of 6-13 are out of school (Ministry of Human Resource Development Ministry or MHRD, 2014). According to MHRD RTE 4th year report, the status of infrastructure/ facilities is far behind the third year deadline of the implementation of the Act (March, 2013).  

Even at the end of 4th year, only 85 per cent schools claimed having toilets for girls, 58 per cent schools claimed having a playground, while 62 per cent schools had boundary walls. Over the last three years, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) allocations, in fact, were approximately only 40 per cent of the recommended 12th Five Year Plan outlay. The 5th year milestone of RTE implementation due in March 2015, by which all teachers had to be professionally trained, is clearly not going to be achieved. Under SSA, sanctioned teacher posts (till 2012-13) were 1.982 million while the number of teachers recruited under SSA was 1.248 million (outcome budget, MHRD, 2013-14), with 700,000 vacancies remaining unfilled. The percentage of teachers without minimum qualification is stagnating at around 20 per cent for last four years. This is ironic in context of the centrality of teachers towards realising the goal of quality teaching and learning outcomes.  

With increased levels of primary school enrolment, ensuring vertical transition from primary to secondary education levels becomes crucial. In the 2014-15 budget, allocation for Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) was at Rs 5,000 crore (2014-15 BE) in comparison to Rs 27,758 crore for SSA. The yawning gap in public investment on secondary education (the 2013 Analysis of Budgeted Expenditure on Education document calculated Centre’s proportional share of primary sector education expenditure at 52 per cent while secondary sector education share was 21 per cent) merits urgent attention for providing seamless transition to secondary and higher education.  

Malnutrition challenge

Child malnutrition also continues to warrant dedicated public investment. The last comprehensive nutrition statistics available through the National family Health survey (NFHS) III of 2005-06 show 48 per cent children under five years of age as stunted, that is chronically malnourished, and 43 per cent underweight. The continuing spate of child deaths in tribal areas, such as Attapadi in Kerala and Baran in Rajasthan in 2014, calls for urgent action for universal coverage and access to basic services, and guaranteeing food security of the most vulnerable groups. Against an overall budget recommendation of Rs 1,23,580 crore for Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) under the 12th Five Year Plan, only Rs 50,534.5 crore or 40.9 per cent have been allocated in the last three financial years, suggesting a serious shortfall. The government’s election manifesto and the 2014-15 Union budget had expressed an intent in this context through announcing a comprehensive national malnutrition mission, with strategies, finances and timelines to be worked out within six months. Now is the time for presenting its seriousness in taking forward the challenge of eliminating malnutrition in India.  

How protected are children?

The introduction of the Integrated Child protection Scheme (ICPS), the government’s flagship scheme on child protection, in 2009 has not made a significant impact. Incidents of child protection violations, such as missing children, trafficking, sexual abuse and corporal punishment have increased in recent years, leading to heightened awareness of infrastructural gaps, systemic loopholes and the non existence of quality counselling and support services for children. A close look at allocations in ICPS indicates stagnation at Rs 258.46 crore (2012-13 RE), Rs 270 crore (2013-14 RE) and Rs 400 crore (2014-15 BE) against recommended 12th Plan outlay (annual) of Rs 1,060 crore. The expectation, therefore, from the upcoming budget is for re-prioritising investments towards developing a robust child protection system, with the capacity to provide emergency immediate care, crisis support and long term rehabilitation services to children.  

Given the urgency and enormity of even these few issues mentioned above, CRY is hopeful that the government should gear towards a positive increase in the Union Budget 2015-16, and allocate at least 10 per cent of Union budget for children.  

Puja Marwaha is CEO of Child Rights and You (CRY)

 

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