India has 10m working children, but budget 2019 has slashed outlay for key rehabilitation project by 17%

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 08, 2019 16:05 hrs
Children work at a stone crushing unit in Churaibari area of Tripura (Image Courtesy: indiaspend)

Bengaluru: The central government has allocated Rs 90,594 crore for children in Budget 2019, a meagre 0.01-percentage-point increase to 3.25% of the overall budget compared to last year, according to a report by the non-government organisation Child Rights and You (CRY).

Children constitute nearly 40% of India's population, yet the funds allocated for their education, development, health and protection remained almost constant, the analysis noted.

The largest chunk (68%) went towards education, followed by development (26%), health (3%) and protection (2%). While allocation for education fell 1.1 percentage points, the allocation for protection increased 0.6 percentage points from last year.

"The interim budget 2019 has shown positive trends towards the vulnerable sections of our society, including farmers, small entrepreneurs and the tax-paying middle classes," said Puja Marwaha, chief executive officer, CRY. "Yet, for almost 40% of India's population comprising of its children, it failed to address the expectations of the nation as children were neither a part of the budget speech nor were they visible anywhere in the 10-point vision for 2030."

Education allocation declines, post-matric scholarships shrink

There has been a "clear but gradual decline" in the share of education from almost 79% in 2015-16 (budget estimate or BE) to 68% in 2019-20 (BE), the report noted.

Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan or integrated scheme for school education has been allocated Rs 75,000 crore for the period between April 2018 and March 2020, the report noted.

Launched in June 2018, the scheme aims to bring all programmes--from pre-school to matriculation--including Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (education for all), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (national middle education mission) and teachers' training programmes--under one umbrella.

After five years of schooling, at age 10-11 years, just over half (51%) of students in India can read a grade II-level text (appropriate for seven- to eight-year-olds), IndiaSpend reported on January 15, 2019. This was lower than in 2008 when 56% grade V students could read a grade II-level text.

The allocation for the post- and pre- matriculation scholarship for marginalised groups such as scheduled castes (SCs) and other backward castes (OBCs) has "remained stagnant or in fact reduced".

Allocation to post-matriculation scholarships across the groups has declined while pre-matriculation scholarships have increased.

The increase (in percentage terms) in pre-matriculation scholarships was the highest for SCs (156%), followed by minorities (122%) and OBCs (53%), while the fall in post-matriculation scholarship was the highest for SCs (-60%) and the least for OBCs (-17%).

Source: Child Rights and You, 2019
Note: All figures in Rs crore are budget estimates

Health budget declines, anganwadi services get a boost

Health saw a 0.5-percentage-point decline to 3.4% in overall allocation for children. The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)--the world's largest integrated early childhood programme to reduce child mortality--saw a 19% increase to Rs 19,428 crore. The "substantial increase" may "not be adequate" to meet the demands in anganwadis (childcare centres), the analysis said.

Anganwadis provide services such as supplementary nutrition, pre-school non-formal education, nutrition, health education and immunisation. This has been the highest allocation over the last three years, according to the report.

"Under Anganwadi and Asha Yojana, honorarium has been enhanced by about 50% for all categories of workers," Piyush Goyal, interim finance minister, said in his budget speech on February 1, 2019.

India utilises the services of 1.18 million anganwadi workers (AWWs) and 1.16 million anganwadi helpers (AWHs) under ICDS, IndiaSpend reported on February 23, 2018.

As many as 11 states and four union territories have not announced any change in the additional salary paid to AWWs and AWHs since 2015, the report added.

The increase in honorarium "ought to induce much-needed positivity and improved accountability", the CRY report said.

Allocation for child protection doubles while Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao remains stagnant

The allocation for the Integrated Child Protection Scheme doubled to Rs 1,500 crore from last year. The centrally sponsored scheme aims at building a protective environment for children through government-civil society partnership.

The allocation for Beti Bachao Beti Padhao programme, aimed at preventing gender-biased sex selective elimination and ensuring survival, protection and education of the girl child, has remained stagnant since the last budget at Rs 280 crore.

Over 56% funds allocated for Beti Bachao Beti Padhao from 2014-15 to 2018-19 were spent on "media-related activities" and less than 25% were disbursed to districts and states, The Quint reported on January 21, 2019.

"I can say with pride that with Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign, there has been a rise in the number of girls (female ratio) in Haryana, Rajasthan and many other states," prime minister Narendra Modi was quoted by NDTV in this report on October 13, 2018.

"Many innocents have got rights. The meaning of life is not only to live, but live with dignity."

The budget reduced the allocation for the National Child Labour Project--to rehabilitate working children--by 17% to Rs 100 crore from the last budget. Nearly 10.1 million children--equal to the population of Uttarakhand--are working, either as 'main worker' or as 'marginal worker', according to International Labour Organisation data.

(Paliath is an analyst with IndiaSpend.)

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