Karnataka stands fourth in child development: Report

State does poorly in indicators such as child marriage

August 29, 2019 11:19 pm | Updated August 30, 2019 08:22 am IST - Bengaluru

While Karnataka has reformed school education significantly with higher net attendance ratios in primary, upper primary, secondary schools, it ranks poorly in indicators such as sex ratio at birth and child marriage. These were some of the findings of the non-profit Centre for Budget and Policy Studies (CBPS) in its report on public expenditure on children across India from 2012 to 2019.

The report, funded by UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), Delhi, analysed budgets and expenditure of the Union government and sixteen States, including Karnataka.

The report also found a high prevalence of child marriages (21.4%) in the State, especially in districts of north Karnataka where access to senior secondary school is lower. These two indicators affect the State’s E&E (Education and Empowerment) index, which is currently 3.

The H&N (Health and Nutrition) indicators are also relatively poor, with the State ranked 8th and 14th in stunting and wasting of children, respectively. This has pulled down the H&N index to the ninth position. Karnataka, otherwise doing well in education, failed to reach the top three spots because of its poor nutrition indicators.

According to Madhusudan Rao from CBPS, public spending on children is closely linked to child development. Accordingly, a State which has high expenditure will see better child development. But the current trend seems to be that States that have a larger spending capacity do not spend enough. Professor Jandhyala Tilak, ICSSR National Fellow, Council for Social Development, said, “We have very clear evidence that public expenditure matters.”

However, child expenditure as a percentage of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) in Karnataka was found to be among the lowest in the 16 States. Child expenditure as a percentage of both total expenditure of the State as well as a Social Service Expenditure has shown a clear declining trend. “You can’t rely only on budget. We need to look beyond numbers, cultural issues for example. We have malnutrition despite what we are spending, and it’s unfathomable. But, when you look at the breakdown, it is just four or five districts that are bringing the State down,” I.S.N. Prasad, Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Finance, Government of Karnataka, said.

He did, however, admit that social sector funding had stagnated across the State and country. “There is no political mandate, children are not voters and they have no one to articulate their demands. Politicians want to see value in the short term rather than in long-term assets like children.”

The report also found that poor States that did not invest enough in sectors supporting child development paid the price for it. They had a higher share of child population and lower economic capacities. Conversely, there were States that did spend a greater share of their GSDP and Total Expenditure on children, but failed to see any results. This, according to the report, could be attributed to the small size of their economy.

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