Budgetary allocations for child welfare schemes for 2017-18 may have been raised but rights advocates have termed as “disappointing” this “nominal increment” for programmes for children who account for 39 per cent of the country’s population. Noting that the Budget for 2017-18 allocates just 3.32 per cent of the total funds for child welfare schemes, rights body CRY said the allocations fail to meet National Plan of Action for Children (NPAC) recommendations of 5 per cent funds.
Nobel Laureate and social activist Kailash Satyarthi said he was disappointed with the “nominal” increase for the National Child Labour Plan. “Like last 15 years, budgets for children have remained stagnant with Union Budget 2017-18 allocating just 3.32 per cent to children. While the need is that of exponential increase, allocations for children have seen only an incremental increase with Rs 71,305.35 crore from Rs 65,758.45 crore in 2016-17 budget,” Komal Ganotra, director (policy, research and advocacy) at CRY told PTI.
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She said the recently-released NPAC chalks out targets for children for next five years, and states and recommends that atleast 5 per cent of the Union Budget must be spent on schemes and programmes directly related to children. “This budget does not even meet the conservative recommendation stated in NPAC,” she claimed. In the Budget presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on February 1, the increase has been largely in four children-related schemes — Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (from Rs 22,500 crore to Rs 23,500 crore), Midday meal scheme (Rs 9,700 crore to Rs 10,000 crore), Integrated Child Development Schemes (Rs 14,000 crore to 15,245 crore) and increase of Rs 339 crore in NRHM flexible pool.
Satyarthi, however, welcomed the eight per cent increase in the budget for empowerment and protection of children and said the government’s decision to raise the fund for women and child development from Rs 1.56 lakh crore to Rs 1.84 lakh crore is reassuring. But he added that it was “disappointing that there is nominal increment for the National Child Labour Project”.
“I have always emphasised on the criticality of safeguarding the child’s environment to ensure their development. “The outcome indicators of children’s progress show huge deficiencies at present. These can be addressed only with enhanced allocation and expenditure under different child welfare programs,” Satyarthi said. “The increased outlays to the social sector do not necessarily benefit children. Children comprise 39 per cent of our population yet are allotted only 3.32 per cent of the budget,” he said, adding, “a more proportionate investment will create opportunities for the whole country to thrive.”
On education front, CRY said the country is still struggling to meet the Right To Education (RTE) targets and fulfil huge gaps in areas like teacher vacancy, infrastructure and quality learning. “The mere increase in the allocation of budget in SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan) by 1,305 crore will be distributed among 10,80,757 elementary schools in India,” Ganotra said. The non-profit body although lauded the government opening its coffers for the scheme for Child Protection and National Nutrition Mission.
“The scheme for Child Protection saw a revival in the revised estimate stage last year (from Rs 397 to 597 crore) and has seen further increase of Rs 50 crore in the 2017-18 budget at Rs 648 crore. Hopes for an early revival of the National Nutrition Mission, which has been in the pipeline for over two years, have also resurfaced, with an allocation of Rs 1,100 crore as against Rs 360 crore which was largely unutilised in 2015-16,” she said.