However, among various flagship programmes, Integrated Child Protection Scheme did not figure anywhere

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Thursday commended the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) for being able to spend the entire amount of Rs. 15,850 crore provided in 2012-13.

Rewarding the Ministry of Women and Child Development for this, Mr. Chidambaram announced an allocation of Rs. 17,700 crore in 2013-14 in the Budget proposal — an increase of 11.7 per cent. The focus will continue to be on early childhood care and education, he said.

Calling maternal and child malnutrition in a country with abundant food grains a shame that must be overcome, the Minister said a multi-sectoral programme that was announced last year would be implemented in 100 districts during 2013-14 and would be scaled up to cover 200 districts the year after with an allocation of Rs. 300 crore.

The Planning Commission Working Group has estimated the need for ICDS to be Rs. 1.83 lakh crore over five years (over Rs. 36,000 crore per year), which means that India’s children need further and a more substantial increase in the budget in the coming years.

However, Haq: Centre for Child Rights has said that while the budget for children has seen 8.7 per cent increase in 2013-14 with the ICDS Scheme seeing an increase by 11 per cent, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan by 6.6 per cent, Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksja Abhiyaan by 27.50 per cent and Mid-Day Meal by 10.71 per cent, it was important to note that among the various flagship programmes, the Integrated Child Protection Scheme did not figure anywhere.

Save the Children welcomed the government’s decision to increase allocations for the Mid-Day Meal Scheme but said it was disappointed by the allocations for other programmes meant for the welfare of children and mothers. Substantial gaps between the desired levels of funding and the allocation were left unaddressed by this year’s budget, a statement issued here said.

“India has the highest number of malnourished children in the world, and while the prime Minister calls it a national shame, the funding levels currently need to be increased drastically to bring about a drastic improvement in the nutritional status and children’s health,” said Thomas Chandy, CEO, Save the Children.

More funds needed

“A mere six per cent increase in the allocation for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is unlikely to boost the implementation of the Right to Education Act,” he said.

Child protection is another area which has drawn the attention of the entire country in the wake of several incidents of child sexual abuse, including the brutal rape and murder of three minor girls in Maharashtra. “As a child rights organisation we were hoping that government will prioritise the Integrated Child Protection Scheme and dramatically increase capacity and budget allocation for the scheme, however, the allocation has been decreased from Rs. 400 crore last year to Rs. 300 crore this year… This 25 per cent cut in the budget is bewildering and depressing,” said Mr. Chandy.

According to a study done by Save the Children, Unicef and the Ministry of Women and Child Development, nearly 50 per cent of children in India have faced abuse. The Planning Commission has estimated Rs. 5,300 crore for child protection over the Plan period (Rs. 1,006 crore per year), so a drastic increase for child protection in the near future was expected, Mr. Chandy added.