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By Our Representative
In an important revelation, a well-known child rights advocacy group, HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, based in Delhi, has said that in the rush for growth, children have been left behind by the Narendra Modi government's budget, presented in Parliament on February 28. Its analysis of the Union budget presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has found that in the budget for 2015-16 allocation for children has gone down by 29 per cent compared to 2014-15. Worse, there was a 55 per cent reduction in the overall budget for the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
In a note, prepared by Enakshi Ganguly Thukral, Bharti Ali and Farhana Yasmin, the top child rights group has said, “At a time when the world community is making a commitment to children and budgets and is outing out reports through the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Government of India is reducing its commitment.” It regrets, “India was one of the first countries in the world to have a separate budget for children, and today the same country is turning its back on its children.”
“Deeply disappointed” that this has happened despite the fact that it has “consistently engaged” itself with the Government of India on children's budgeting, HAQ: Centre for Child Rights has said that the fall in the allocation for two of the flagship programmes meant to implement right to education (RTE) has also gone down — by 21 per cent for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and 30 per cent for the Midday Meal Scheme.
Further, there is a 22 per cent reduction “in health related schemes for children”, 25 per cent reduction in “overall education programmes for children”. However, surprising though it may seem, there is an increase by 36.55 per cent in “a scheme for providing education to Madrassas / minorities.” At the same time, “the scheme for setting up of 6,000 model schools at the block level as a benchmark of excellence has faced a 99.92 per cent deduction in allocation.”
The child rights group adds, “About 2.3 crore children in India are malnourished. Given this, it is very disheartening to know that the scheme that deals with malnourishment- ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme), has seen a 54.19 per cent decrease in allocation.”
The analysts comment, the government's programmes are more tailored towards its ‘Make in India’, ‘Skill India’ vision, one reason why the budget has “focused heavily on infrastructure, renewable energy, agriculture and defence.”
However, “in doing so, it has taken money away from an area where it is most needed.” Therefore, they wonder, the question remains, how can a country where children are not accounted for, be truly called a developed country.”
Suggesting that this is not a new trend, and has continued with the previous budget presented after the NDA came to power, the child rights groups suggests that while the “budget for children analysis for the last 15 years shows that children have never received more than 5 per cent of the total Union Budget allocation”, in the last financial year, 2014-15, “out of every Rs 100 allocated in the Union Budget, the share of children was only Rs 4.52.”