Wednesday, 04 March 2015 | NAGESHWAR PATNAIK | BHUBANESWAR | in Bhubaneswar

Children, constituting 39 per cent of India’s population and India being home to 20 per cent of the world’s child population, have never received more than 5 per cent of the total Union Budget allocation in the last 15 years.

What is still worse is that in the Union Budget presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday last, children have received a little over 3 per cent of the total Budget in 2015-16 compared to 4.52 per cent in the 2014-15 Budget, according to a Budget for Children (BfC) analysis by New Delhi-based organisation HAQ: Centre for Child Rights.

Incidentally, India was one of the first countries in the world to have a separate Budget for children, and, yet, in 2014-15, out of every 100 rupees allocated in the Budget, the share of children was only Rs4.52.

In 2007, a Statement 22 was introduced in the Budget listing out the schemes and programmes for children. Based on the Statement 22, Volume 2 of the Expenditure Budget, the BfC says what is more there has been a consistent fall in the share of children. The (BfC) over the years raises concerns about the Government’s political commitment to children of India.

Thousands of children die every year from preventable diseases and infections. In the absence of a sound public healthcare system delivering services for children, it is not possible to improve child health outcomes, particularly for the poor. Infant mortality in India is 42 per thousand births, main reasons for which are early childhood diseases and childbirth-related causes.

In 2015-16, the share of health sector for children is just 0.13 per cent. “Over the years there has been a decline in the share of health for children. How can this be justified in the context of the situation of health of children?” the report asked.

Similarly, nearly 9 crore children in the age group 0-3 years and with the 40-per cent prevalence of underweight, 35.6 million among them are underweight, according to the Census 2011. The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) the flagship welfare programme of Ministry of Women and Child Development, which provides food, preschool education, and primary healthcare to children under 6 years of age and their mothers.

In 2015-16, the ICDS accounted for 87.39 per cent of the Ministry of Women and Child Development’s (MoWCD) budget and 91.46 per cent of the child development sector budget. The ICDS in mission mode had estimated a budget of Rs28,454 crore in 2015-16 for implementation of the scheme.

About 2.3 crore Indian children are malnourished. Yet, under this scheme, the Budgetary allocation has come down by 54.19 per cent.

The Budget of MoWCD has come down by 55 per cent from Rs18.588.39 crore to Rs10,382.40 crore. There has been a fall of 29 per cent in the current Budget for children from 2014-2015, according to the report.  However, education received the largest share of allocation both within the Union Budget (2.28 per cent) as well as BfC (79. 12 per cent). However, there has been a 21-per cent reduction in allocations in critical schemes like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the report added.

The midday meal scheme too observed a decline of 30.11 per cent in its allocation from Rs13,215.00 crore in 2014-2015 to Rs9,236.40 crore in 2015-2016.

“The Government’s programmes are tailored towards its ‘Make in India’, ‘Skill India’ vision and 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, how can a country where children are not accounted for be truly called a Developed Country?” the BfC analsys questioned.