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Govt of India's child budget down by 29% to "respect" states' autonomy undermines regional imbalance: Report

By Our Representative
Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA), a civil society initiative, has taken strong hold exception to the Government of India’s fund sharing pattern in centrally sponsored schemes (CSS) between the Union and state governments, set at 60:40 (as against 75:25 previously) for child-related schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Mid-Day Meal (MDM), and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
“The fall in the total budget announced for the children in the 2015-16 at 29% was the highest ever”, a recent report, released by WNTA – a network 32 voluntary organizations focusing on governance accountability to hold the government accountable for its promise to end poverty, social exclusion and discrimination – says.
Providing ministry-wise breakup, the report says, “The budget of the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) was cut by -17%, of the Ministry of Woman and Child Development (MWCD) by -51% and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfore (MoHFW) by -13% compared to 2014-15. It contradicted all promised made by the government on behalf of children.”
Titled “Citizens’ Report on Second year of the NDA Government -2016: Promises & Reality”, the report says the pretext of changing the funds sharing pattern is “increased autonomy given to the states in setting their expenditure priorities”.
However, it insists, “The Centre needs to take cognizance of social and regional disparities in development. It needs to play a crucial role in addressing these disparities by investing more in areas and for the marginalised sections that lag behind. And, the social sector schemes are perhaps the only channel available for the Centre to do so.”
Providing figures on how this would this affect children, the report says, they form 13% of the total population, underli"ning, “While an estimated 26 million children are born every year, an estimated 12.7 lakh children die every year before completing 5 years of age. 10.5 lakh of the deaths are of those below one year.”
“India’s38.7% of children in the 0-59 months are reported stunted, 17.3% among them being severely stunted, 15.1% wasted with 4.6% being severely wasted, 29.4% being underweight”, the report says, regretting, the ICDS budget has been “reduced by 54.19% between 2014-15 and 2015-16, threatening “the very survival of children in this age group.”
“Even prior to the budget cut, the ICDS is a poorly resourced programme with 26.9% of children not accessing any anganwadi/pre-school programme, 37.9% of the children attending the government run anganwadi centres, and 30.7% attending privately run institutions”, the report says.
ICDS provides food, preschool education, and primary healthcare to children under 6 years of age and their mothers.
Further, the report says, “The budget of the Human Resource Development Ministry has been cut down by 17% between 2014-15 and 2015-16, which severely impacts the education opportunities for children from the vulnerable communities depending upon the government schools and provisions.”
Then, it says, “The special education support to children from vulnerable sections has also seen a cut – pre-matric scholarship of minorities (-5.45%), the post matric scholarship for minorities (-3.07%), upgradation of merit of SC students (-20.41%) and incentives to children of vulnerable groups among scheduled castes (-75%).”
Suggesting that the impact of all this can already be seen, the report says, governments across India have closed down ‘uneconomical schools’ – schools which, often, have less than 20 children. Already, in the last two years, around 17,000 schools were closed or merged in Rajasthan and another 13,000 in Maharashtra.
Pregnant women, too, have suffered, says the report. The most “glaring act of omission of the government in the implementation of the maternity entitlement” is failure to initiate the scheme to provide “at least Rs 6000 for every pregnant and nursing mother”, it points out.
Then, the report says, in the last fiscal only 67.23 % of children were covered for the Supplementary Nutrition Programme, an ICDS programme. Other ICDS services, too, it adds, fared badly, with pre-school education remaining on paper in most states.
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Click HERE to download report

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