Child rights NGOs disappointed with low budgetary allocation for children
Child rights bodies on Monday expressed disappointed over the "lowest" budgetary allocation for children in a decade and said they require financial resources the most now in the aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic.
Priti Mahara, Director of Policy Research and Advocacy at CRY said this year's share of budgetary allocations for children as proportion of Union Budget is the lowest in the last 10 years - reduced by 1.6 percentage points from 4.06 per cent (2010-11 Budget Estimate) to 2.46 per cent (2021-22 BE).
"And there is a 0.70 percentage point reduction in total budget allocated to children i.e. 2.46 per cent allocated in 2021-22 BE when compared to the last year 2020-21 (BE) i.e. 3.16 per cent.
"While the budget has focused on economic reforms, it has missed out on the fact that current investments on children would bear manifold dividends in future and have cross-sectoral serious implications," the child rights body said.
Mahara said the budget has also broadly neglected child education and missed out protection.
The nation had a huge hope around the operationalisation of the New Education Policy, and the expectation was that the Union Budget would duly respond to the much needed measures in bringing marginalised children into the fold of remote learning, and would largely focus on the required infrastructural facilities – which has been majorly missing, Mahara said.
"Also, as the pandemic has put serious threats to child protection issues and as a result child labour, child trafficking and child marriage were expected to soar, we had high hope that the Union Budget would look into these issues and come up with increased allocations in Integrated Child Protection Services Scheme (ICPS). But that didn't happen either," she said.
"Overall, a broad analysis of the Union Budget 21-22 suggests that it has missed out an opportunity to include the children of India in building back the country better," Mahara added.
In a joint statement, child rights NGOs HAQ and 'Nine is Mine' said amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, when the financial resources were needed the most for children, the Budget for Children (BFC) was reduced by 16.22 per cent at the stage of Revised Estimates (RE) in 2020-21.
The Union Budget 2021-22 has observed an increase of 14.49 per cent in total as against the BE of 2020-21, and yet the share of children has gone down.
"As per Statement 12 (Allocations for the Welfare of Children) of 2021-22, the financial outlays for the Department of School Education and Literacy (Demand No. 24) have reduced by 9.71 per cent. This decrease is questionable in the context of the New Education Policy, 2020 which is focussed towards inclusive education and improving the quality of education," it said.
Child Rights NGO Save the Children said despite the education challenges faced by the children due to COVID-19, and an urgent need for increased public funding on education to address learning continuity and bridge the digital divide, the Budget has not adequately prioritized the education of children affected by the pandemic.
"There is inadequate focus for two-thirds of the school-going population which is served by the public education system, with no special focus on the children who have been pushed out of education due to pandemic," it said.
"The allocation for 2021-22 in respect to Education is 6.13 per cent less than the allocation made by the Union Government in 2020-21, with the biggest school education scheme, the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, seeing funds reduced to ₹31,050.16 crore from 38,750.50 crore last year.
"The silence of the Budget on supporting safe and sustained return of children to educational institutions to mitigate the learning loss and build back better education systems will hit the most marginalized children specially girls hardest," Save the Children said.
"Similarly, despite increasing cases of violence and rise in crime against children, and enhanced vulnerabilities in the COVID 19 context, the Budget speech was silent on Child protection issues.
Allocation under the major child protection scheme for children has declined by 40 per cent from ₹1,500 crore in the allocation of 2020 to ₹900 crore in 2021," it said.
Two important autonomous bodies NIPCCD and NCPCR do not have any enhanced allocation. Allocation for NIPCCD has been reduced to ₹60 crores from previous years' allocation of ₹70 crores. Allocation for National child Labour Project remains same at ₹120 crore as in previous years' Budget allocation. Only the allocation for Fast Track Special Court (FTSC) under the Ministry of Law has seen a minor increase from ₹150 crore in 2020-21 to ₹200 crore in the current year, it added.