Children are not the ‘citizens of tomorrow’, 400 million children comprising about 40% of the India’s population are very much citizens of today! The total Child Budget in 2015 – 2016 has declined substantially both in absolute amount and as proportion of the Total Union Budget. In absolute terms, child budget has decreased from Rs. 81075.26 crore in 2014-15 (BE) to Rs. 57918.51 crore in 2015-16 (BE). In the background of 14th Finance Commission recommendation, the changing ratios and fund devolutions, it is clear that states have differential absorption as well as fund allocating capacities. This year will be crucial year to see how the restructuring is likely to impact children. The budgetary allocations for children should reflect Government’s intent of treating children as ‘supremely important asset’
Here are 18 expectations for Children from Union Budget 2016-17
FOR 0-6 years
1.Increased Budget and coverage for ICDS: The allocation for Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) which provides for care, nutrition health and early learning, has declined from Rs. 16,520 crore in 2014-15 (BE) to Rs. 12,345 crore in 2015-16 (BE). (Including supplementary Budgets). The scheme that covers only 50 per cent of the population of children through 1.23 million Anganwadi needs timely and sufficient budgetary allocations in order to effectively implement all six services of ICDS and properly execute the plan of strengthening and restructuring of ICDS.
2.Investment in skilled Anganwadi workers:As on March 2014, 15,246 posts of Anganwadi Supervisor and 83,243 posts of Anganwadi Helpers were vacant, which has worsened in the last one year, adversely impacting the delivery of services. Budgetary investment in skilled human resources is non negotiable to ensure health and development of these children.
3. Budget to fight against hunger and malnutrition: With over 40% of child population below age five being stunted, focused investment needs to be carried out for altering the status of under nutrition. As per NFHS 4, while the proportion of underweight and stunted (low height for age) has seen a marginal decline, the proportion of wasted children has increased in 6 of the 11 states. (West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Karnataka, Goa and Sikkim).
4.Increase complete Immunization coverage:In 8 out of 11 states (Tamil Nadu, Haryana, UT, Tripura, Karnataka, Goa, MP, Sikkim) of the country one out of 3 children do not receive full immunization. Given that states have failed to increase their immunization coverage even by 2 percent per year.,Government should ensure adequacy of investment to achieve the goals envisaged in mission Indra dhanush. Also, while finalizing the National Health Policy 2015, government should define a pathway determining the investments in improving health of children.
FOR 6-14 years
5. Budgets to bridge infrastructure gaps in RTE: The Right to Free and Compulsory Act (RTE), 2009 has finished 5 years, however, three year and five year targets of RTE Act have not been successfully met. The student classroom ratios vary from 97 in Bihar, 85 in West Bengal and 79 in Jharkhand to 29 in the North Eastern. Only 34 percent schools in Bihar and 54 percent in Jharkhand have access to electricity. Provisioning of budgets and appropriate expenditure of the same is required to bridge these existing infrastructural gaps.
6. Increased resources for qualified teachers: More than 9 lakhs teachers in the elementary education system don’t have professional qualification has as per RTE norms. The next phase of RTE will undoubtedly require focusing on aspects of quality teaching and improving learning outcomes. Additional resources in teacher training is thus a prerequisite for enhancing teaching and learning experience.
7. Enhance allocation to make Primary education more inclusive: The 12th Plan approved outlay for SSA as indicated by Planning Commission is Rs. 1,92,726 crore, of which Rs. 1,03,071 crore has been provided till March 2016 (a shortfall of 89,000 crore or 46 percent). In the Union Budget 2015-16, the total allocations of SSA were 22,000 crores with reduction of 28.5 percent over 2014-15 Budgets (lesser than allocation carried out for SSA three years back). There are major gaps with respect to equity and inclusion with the retention rates of 49.3 percent and 64.5 percent among Tribal children and Schedule Caste respectively. There is dire need to fill these existing gaps in order to make primary education more inclusive.
8. Mid Day Meal: In the Union Budget 2015-16, the total allocation of MDM is Rs. 7,811 crore, with 41 percent reduction from 2014-15 BE. Adequate allocations should be carried so that quality of food is never compromised.The budgeting for MDM in 2016-17 also needs to ensure to factor in increasing inflation. A robust mechanism is also required to carry out proper monitoring and regular transfer of fund without any delay so that children.
9. Adequate budgetary provisions for New Education Policy: India’s Education Policy is undergoing a revision after 30 years, and the New Education Policy 2015 has tremendous potential and directly affect a significant large percentage of India’s population. Adequate budgetary provisions should be carried out in 2016-17 budgets in order to ensure that this policy and its visions could be further incorporated in implementation.
10. Investment to prevent crime against children: Total crime against children has increased by 53 per cent since 2013.To prevent crime against children, India needs to evolve a robust child protection systems especially at the rural level.There are serious concerns about poor condition of child care institutions as well as sad state of monitoring of these institutions. Investments on trained staff, greater awareness building are prerequisite for building safe environment for children.
11. Investment to stop child labour: 10.13 million children under the age of 14 years and 22.87 million children from 15-18 years are working. There is a need to invest a lot of resources for this age group in order to keep them away from Child Labour and other forms of vulnerabilities in order to flourish.
FOR 15-18 years
12. Step- up investment in secondary education: The 12th Five Year Plan envisaged near-universal enrolment in secondary education, with enrolment exceeding 90%, India is currently at 78.5% Gross Enrolment Ratio and it is only 48% Net Enrolment Ratio which means out of every 100 children enrolled in school, only 72 finish Class VIII, 48 completes Class X and barely 33 finishes Class XII. Greater investment in secondary education is thus very significant.
13. Sufficient budgetary allocation for RMSA: There has been a 29 per cent reduction in the budgets of Secondary Education scheme – Rashtiya Madhyamik Sikshan Abhiyan (RMSA) in year 2015 – 2016. Approximately 42 million children in the age group of 15 – 18 years are not in school. The budgetary allocation should factor in the fact that with the strengthening of the Framework of elementary education, the proportion of children completing class 8th would increase and thus the demand for secondary education.
14. Integrated allocation plan towards making education inclusive: The drop-out rate is higher in the most marginalized population with 27 per cent of Schedule Tribe children and 24 per cent of Muslim children tend to drop out after class VIII. 1.30 per cent of the total enrolment in primary education consists of Children with special needs (CWSN). This number falls steeply to 0.61 per cent for secondary education, which suggests that large numbers of CWSN drop out of schooling mid-way. Addressing needs of children with disabilities, bridging gender disparity and focused investment for girl children calls for additional investments.
15. Combating Child Marriage – One in every 7 girls are married in the age group of 15 – 18 years. A large number of young girls have anemia and also about 30% of these married girls have at least one or more children which further has impact on their health and development. At state level implementation of PCMA is not uniform as many states do not have proper rules in place. Thus Prohibition of Child Marriage Act needs to be backed by human and budgetary resources for protecting rights of children.
16. Adequate funds for ICPS: The implementation of Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) has finally picked up and gradually the utilization of funds have been increased except in year 2013-14, however fund allocation needs to be substantially increased this year, for the scheme to percolate in all districts and village level.
17. Investment in POCSO: The Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences 2012 (POCSO) Act though enacted has yet to see its implementation is spirit as there have been no investments in developing the requisite child friendly systems such as dedicated special courts, availability of psychologist and counselors for survivors of child sexual abuse, implementation of victim compensation schemes etc. There is a need to have financial memorandum attached to this Act in order ensure we live in society with ‘zero tolerance’ for violence against children.
18. Empowering children: Lastly, there is also a need to carefully and cautiously integrate secondary education and the component of vocational education and skill building, which undoubtedly are imperative for nation’s progress. Children need access to knowledge, all round development, practical skills and decision making capacity.