As much as 5.3 per cent of the Union Budget for 2012-13 is Budget for Children (BfC) with an increase of 0.3 per cent since 2011-12. This must be set against the inflation rate of 6.6 per cent.
The increase can be attributed to the increased allocation in the development sector by 66.2 per cent and health by 29.7 per cent. However, as always, the share of the protection sector remains the lowest, an analysis of the budget for children's component by HAQ, a child rights group, suggests.
Despite the recognition of protection of children in the 11th Five Year Plan and reaffirmation in the Working Group Report of the Ministry of Women and Child Development for the 12th Plan, there is an 18 per cent decline in allocation from 2011-12.
The education sector, too, has seen a decline of 0.1 per cent over last year's share — this when over half of India's children are either not attending school or dropping out before class eight.
It, however, still remains the most resourced sector in the budget for children, with 3.6 per cent share of the Budget and 67 per cent of the allocations for children's component going to it, the HAQ has said.
Following the recommendations of the Prime Minister's National Council on India's Nutritional Challenges, the attention given to malnutrition and the introduction of the multi-sectoral programme to address maternal and child malnutrition in selected 200 high-burden districts was a very important step given that 46 per cent of our children suffer from malnutrition. However, one wonders where the additional allocations are to back this promise.
While attention to urban health through the National Urban Health Mission to meet the primary healthcare needs of people in the urban areas is an important step, there is no budget line to match this good intent, the analysis points out.
The fall in the share of the protection sector is disappointing, since after its recognition the 11th Plan, there had been a consistent increase in allocation for this sector, however small it may have been.
There is a 64.6 per cent increase in the allocation for the Integrated Child Protection Scheme from Rs. 186.40 crore to Rs. 400 crore. This is important when several States are yet to implement the programme even as the 11th Plan came to a close.
Given the government's promises to pay attention to streamlining adoptions in the country, HAQ's analysis points out that the 74.6 per cent decrease in allocation for the Central Adoption Resource Agency is indeed disappointing. The decision comes at a time when large-scale trafficking in children for adoption is an established fact and there is an urgent need for stringent regulation in this field.
The overall increase by 66.2 per cent in the development sector is largely due to the 71.6 per cent increase in the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). However, the ICDS programme has largely by-passed children with disabilities and Dalit and minority groups.
The 29.7 per cent increase in health sector allocation has been welcomed as earlier allocations have been really low. The increase can be traced to the 223 per cent increase in the manufacture of serum and vaccine. There is a 32 per cent increase for strengthening the immunisation programme and eradication of polio.
The Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability has said the UPA-II government has sent clear signals to the captains of industry and finance that it would strive to reduce borrowing but not put them off with any thrust for raising higher amounts of tax revenue in the coming years. In this process, however, the government has lost yet another opportunity to make a course correction for inclusive development in the country.
No cushion for
The All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) has “rejected” the budget and condemned its failure to protect the interests of women. Coming in the wake of the economic crisis, the budget aims at inducing growth by directly and indirectly supporting the aspirations of the corporate players, even while it compromises on cushioning the impact of the price rise and inflation on the common people and the working class. Several aspects of this budget show that the state is preparing to withdraw from its responsibility towards providing basic services and social security to the vulnerable sections. The de-acceleration of the economy has ensured that women are eating less and working more for lower wages. This budget will only aggravate the situation, an AIDWA statement said.