The budget for children in the Union Budget 2019-2020 has shown a marginal increase of 0.05%, going up from 3.24% in the last fiscal to 3.29% in the current fiscal with a grant of ₹91,644.29 crore.
The share is less than the low share of 5% that the National Plan of Action for Children, 2016, had recommended, notes HAQ Centre for Child Rights.
A detailed analysis of the budgetary grant carried out by Child Rights and You for four thematic areas of child rights, including education, health, development and child protection, shows that the first two categories have registered a decline while the money allocated for the ambitious plan for nutritional development may be insufficient.
The share of education has increased marginally to 68.54% from 68.2%, but has declined by more than 10 percentage points from 79.02% in 2015-2016. These include schemes like Samagra Shiksha, National Programme of Mid Day Meal in Schools and Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti.
Health related financial allocation as a share of the child health budget has shown a decline of 0.39% — from 3.90% last fiscal to 3.51% — though India has set the target of reaching single digit neonatal mortality rate and single digit still birth rate until 2030. The country recorded a neo natal mortality rate of 24 per 1,000 live births in 2016 and an infant mortality rate of 33 per 1,000 live births in 2017.
The Anganwadi services and the Poshan Abhiyan (Nutrion Mission) are among the most important government programmes aimed at reducing stunting, under-weight, anaemia and low birth weight. While the former has registered an increase of 19% and the latter of 14% in this latest Budget announcement, experts have argued that it is inadequate given the expectations from the scheme. “Given the multiple demands upon the ICDS system [or Anganwadi services], including increase in honorarium for anganwadi workers, even this susbstantial increase may not be adequate to meet the expectations,” said Priti Mahara, Director of Policy Research and Advocacy at CRY.
The government’s Integrated Child Protection Scheme, which aims at preventing trafficking and providing care to missing, abandoned and orphaned children and rescue victims of child labour has seen an increase of 62% with an allocation of ₹1,500 crore as compared to last year’s ₹925 crore, lauded as a welcome move by activists.
Activists are, however, unhappy with the cut back of 16% for the National Child Labour Project Scheme — the only programme in the country addressing child labour through remedial education and bridge courses, rehabilitation and mainstreaming through decent livelihoods. Only ₹100 crore has been allocated for the scheme as opposed to ₹120 crore granted last fiscal.
The HAQ points out that as far as three key schemes for the girl child are concerned, they have either remained unchanged or have registered a sharp decrease. The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme has received ₹280 crore, same as last fiscal, but the scheme for adolescent girls and National Scheme for Incentive to Girl Child for Secondary Education have both registered a decline of 60% in allocation.