Article Source : DAILY O

Date of Issue : 26th Feb ‘16

Title of Article : Budget 2016: 18 expectations for citizens under 18

Details :

Children are not the “citizens of tomorrow”. Four hundred million children comprising about 40 per cent of India’s population are very much the citizens of today. The total child budget in 2015-’16 has declined substantially, both in absolute terms and as a proportion of the total Union Budget.

In absolute terms, the child budget has decreased from Rs 81,075.26 crore in 2014-’15 (Budget estimates) to Rs 57,918.51 crore in 2015-’16. In the background of the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, and changing ratios and fund devolutions, it is clear that states have differential absorption as well as fund allocation capacities. This year will be crucial to see how the budgetary restructuring is likely to impact children. The budgetary allocations for children should reflect the government’s intent of treating children as “supremely important assets”.

Here are 18 expectations from Budget 2016 for citizens under the age of 18:

For the age group of 0-6 years

  1. Increased budget and coverage under ICDS: Allocation for the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), which provides for care, nutrition, health and early learning, has declined from Rs 16,520 crore in 2014-’15 to Rs 12,345 crore in 2015-’16 (this figure includes supplementary Budgets). The scheme that covers 50 per cent of the population of children through 1.23 million anganwadis needs timely and sufficient budgetary allocations, so that all six services of the ICDS are effectively implemented and the ICDS is properly restructured.
  2. Investment in skilled anganwadi workers: As on March 2014, 15,246 posts of anganwadi supervisor and 83,243 posts of anganwadi helper 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 per cent of the children below five years having stunted growth (low height for the corresponding age), focused investment needs to be carried out for addressing the problem of undernutrition. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4, while the proportion of underweight and stunted children has seen a marginal decline, the proportion of wasted children has increased in six of the 11 states (West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Karnataka, Goa and Sikkim).
    1. Complete immunisation coverage: In eight out of 11 states (Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Tripura, Karnataka, Goa, Madhya Pradesh and Sikkim), a child out of every three children does not receive full immunisation. Given that states have failed to increase their immunisation coverage even by two percent every year, the government should ensure adequacy of investment to achieve the goals envisaged in Mission Indradhanush. Also, while finalising the National Health Policy 2015, the government should define a plan for investments in improving the health of children.

For the age group of 6-14 years

  1. Budgets to bridge infrastructure gaps in RTE: The Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009 has finished five years now. However, three-year and five-year targets of the RTE Act have not been successfully met. The student-classroom ratios vary from 52 in Bihar, 30 in West Bengal and 27 in Jharkhand (source: DISE School Education 2014-’15).Only eight per cent schools in Bihar, 12 per cent in Jharkhand and 41 per cent in West Bengal have access to electricity. Provisioning of budgets and its appropriate expenditure is required to bridge these existing infrastructural gaps (source: Flash Statistics DISE 2013-14).
  1. Increased resources for qualified teachers: More than nine lakh teachers in the elementary education system don’t have professional qualification according to RTE norms. The next phase of the 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 experiences.
  2. Enhance allocation to make primary education more inclusive: The 12th Five Year Plan approved an outlay of Rs 1,92,726 crore for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), as indicated by the Planning Commission. Out of this, Rs 1,03,071 crore has been provided till March 2016 (a shortfall of Rs 89,000 crore or 46 per cent).In the Union Budget 2015-’16, the total allocation for the SSA was 22,000 crore with a reduction of 28.5 per cent over the 2014-’15 Budget. It was lesser than the allocation for the SSA three years back. There have been major gaps in terms of equity and inclusion in education, with retention rates of 49.3 per cent and 64.5 per cent among tribal children and schedule castes respectively. There is a dire need to fill these gaps in order to make primary education more inclusive.
  1. Mid-day meal: In Union Budget 2015-’16, the total allocation for the mid-day meal scheme was Rs 7,811 crore, with 41 per cent reduction from 2014-’15. Adequate allocations should be made so that the quality of food is never compromised. Budgeting for the scheme in 2016-’17 also needs to factor in increasing inflation. A robust mechanism is also required to carry out proper monitoring and a regular transfer of funds without any delay.
  2. 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 would directly impact a significant percentage of India’s population. Adequate budgetary provisions should be carried out in the 2016-’17 Budget in order to ensure that this policy and its vision could be properly implementated.
  3. Investment to prevent crime against children: Crime against children has increased by 53 per cent since 2013. To prevent this, India needs to evolve a robust child protection system especially at the rural level. There are serious concerns about the poor condition of childcare institutions, as well as the sad state of monitoring of these institutions. Investments on the training of staff, and building greater awareness are the prerequisites for bringing about a safe environment for children.
  1. Investment to stop child labour: 10.13 million children under the age of 14 years and 22.87 million in the age group of 15-18 years are engaged in labourious work. There is a need to invest a lot of resources for children in this age group in order to keep them away from labourious work and other forms of vulnerabilities.For 15-18 years
  2. Step up investment in secondary education: The 12th Five Year Plan envisaged near-universal enrolment in secondary education. India currently has 78.5 per cent gross enrolment ratio and only 48 per cent net enrolment ratio. So, out of every 100 children enrolled in schools, only 72 finish class eight, 48 complete class ten and barely 33 finish Class 12. Greater investment in secondary education is thus necessary.
  1. Sufficient budgetary allocation for RMSA: There has been a 29 per cent fall in the budgets of the Rashtiya Madhyamik Sikshan Abhiyan (RMSA) in 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 eight would increase and thus, the demand for secondary education.
  2. Integrated allocation plan towards making education inclusive: The drop out rate is higher among the most marginalised population, with 27 per cent of the children belonging to the scheduled tribes and 24 per cent of Muslim children dropping out after class eight. Also, 1.30 per cent of the total enrolment in primary education consists of children with special needs. This number falls steeply to 0.61 per cent in case of secondary education, which suggests that a large number of children with special needs drop out of schooling midway. Addressing the needs of children with disabilities, bridging gender disparity and focused investment for the girl child calls for additional investments.
  3. Combating child marriage: One in every seven girls in the age group of 15-18 years are married. A large number of young girls have anaemia and also about 30 per cent of these married girls have at least one or more children, which has a terrible impact on their health and development. At the state level, implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act is not uniform as many states do not have proper rules in place. Thus the Act needs to be backed by human and budgetary resources for protecting the rights of children.
  1. Adequate funds for ICPS: Implementation of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) has finally picked up, and the utilisation of funds had increased, except in 2013-’14. However fund allocation needs to be substantially increased this year, for the scheme to percolate in all districts and village level.
  2. Investment in POCSO: The Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 though enacted, has yet to see its implementation in spirit as there have been no investments in developing requisite child-friendly systems, such as dedicated special courts, availability of psychologists and counsellors for the survivors of child sexual abuse, implementation of victim compensation schemes and so on. There is a need to have financial memorandum attached to this Act in order ensure we live in a society with “zero tolerance” for violence against children.
  3. Empowering children: Lastly, there is also a need to carefully and cautiously integrate secondary education and vocational education and skill-building, which undoubtedly are imperative for a nation’s progress. Children need access to knowledge, all-round development, practical skills and decision-making capacity.