Union Budget 2019-20: Status quo remains for children

Allocation needed to be increased after being nearly stagnant for years

By Abhik Bhattacharya
Published: Wednesday 10 July 2019

The Union Budget 2019-2020 is strongly focused on building the Indian economy and taking it to its pinnacle. Yet, the considerations of children, their rights and aspirations continue to languish in priority.

The total budget for children again witnessed an incremental increase of 0.05 per cent compared with last year, from 3.24 per cent (BE — Budget Estimate) to 3.29 per cent (BE). This is showing a continuous declining trend of the last two-three years with the allocations at Rs 91,644.29 crore against 2018-19’s allocation of Rs 79,090 crore.

Only a few schemes have witnessed significant change. These include the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme, or Aanganwadi services, the mid-day meal scheme for children, and child protection services.

Again, the ICDS scheme, has increased from 16,334.88 crore (BE 2018-19) to Rs 19,427.75 (BE 2019-20), while the Poshan Abhiyan has received an allocation of Rs 3,400 crore — a substantial increase from last year’s sum of Rs 2,928.7 crore.

Meanwhile, child protection, in a climate of overwhelming security concerns, has seen a moderate increase to reach 2.11 per cent of the entire budget for children.

A change that took place after last year’s budget was the consolidation of the school education system under the Samagra Shiksha Scheme, which, at Rs 36,322 crores, is expected to hold the perspective shift of considering the complete school cycle — from pre — primary education to Class 12.

The total allocation for the Sarva Shisksha Abhiyan and the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiska Abhiyan in 2018-19 was Rs 30,341.81 crore — significantly lower than what was demanded. This year, Samagra Shiksha Scheme with an allocation of Rs 36,322 crore would still fall short of the current education requirements.

Given the perspective shift proposed in the New Education Policy, the allocations for addressing the requirements of the continuum of education from pre-school to secondary education would have to be substantially higher. Higher education institutions have raced ahead while India’s school system, probably the world’s largest, has not seen the paradigm shift even though hopes of finally having a New Education Policy continue to glimmer.

However, the overall budget envelope for child health has declined even further to 3.51 per cent.

The preceding years’ budget envelope has remained stagnant — even 2016-17 revised estimates indicated an overall allocation of 3.29 per cent. Considering the amount of work underway as highlighted in Economic Survey, whether it be Beti Bachao, or the technical progress in monitoring anganwadi services as part of Poshan Abhiyan, it clearly shows that much more could have been done for children.  

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