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Decline in Union budget for eradicating child labour, encouraging girl child schemes

By Our Representative
A child rights civil society organization has regretted that though 37 per cent of the country’s population are children, Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s first full-time woman finance minister, did not refer to children at all in her speech in Parliament. Worse, said the Haq Centre for Child Rights (HCCR), the share of budget for children (BfC) in the Union Budget “has not been increased.”
This has happened despite the fact that the “Save the Children’s Global Childhood Report 2019” ranked India 113th of 176 countries in the childhood index. The analysis had found in India about 38% of children under five are stunted, which is “the second-worst performance in the region, the worst being Pakistan (40.8%). China was the best with 6% stunted children, followed by Nepal (13.8%), Sri Lanka (17.3%), Bangladesh (17.4%) and Bhutan (19.1%).
Pointing out that “despite efforts at giving free universal education, about 20% of children (aged 8-16) were still out of school as of 2018”, the HCCR analysis titled “Children in the Trillion Dollar Economy”, said, “The share for children in this budget remains at 3.2 percent of the total Union Budget, which is less than the equally low share that the National Plan of Action for Children 2016 had recommended.”
The HCCR analysis said, “Over the years this commitment has got diluted and the percentage of child budget has been continuing going down after it was 5.71 per cent in 2008–09”, insisting, child budget should be “at least 5 per cent of the Union Budget”.
It added, “The share of all the sectors, except child protection has been falling over the years. This can be traced back to the 14th Finance Commission recommendations, which said that the responsibility for allocating for children now is largely with the states.”
The analysis further stated, “While there are some major cutbacks, the reduction in the budget for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA) and Rastriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) is because of the creation of the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan with an allocation of Rs 36,322 crore.”
Pointing out that this scheme is “meant to include teacher education”, the analysis said, “It has witnessed a total increase of Rs 5,109.49 crore, which is an increase of 16.4 per cent (calculated based on allocations for SSA, RMSA and teacher training last year)”, wondering, “Does that herald the right to compulsory education being extended to secondary education and 18 years?” 
BfC: Budget for Children. Int: Interim, FB: Full Budget
The analysis said, while the finance minister talked of “Naari tu Naarayani”, the “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” campaign has been allocated the same as the previous financial year – Rs 280 Crore. This has happened despite the fact that the Economic Survey 2018-19 recommended “incorporating insights from behavioural economics to change behaviour, giving credit to initiatives such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao for improving child sex ratios, particularly in large states where the child sex ratio was poor.”
The survey had claimed that the campaign “had the maximum impact in states that plausibly also needed the greatest pivot in their social norms”, even though facts show otherwise: Niti Aayog’s latest data on sex-ratio at birth “suggests a decline in 18 out of the 21 states for which data is analysed”, the analysis asserted.
Continued the civil society analysis, “With a new law enacted to address child labour, one would have expected to see resources being placed to ensure that there is elimination of child labour. Instead it is depressing to see the cutback in allocations for the only programme in the country addressing child labour – the improvement in working conditions of child/women labour (NCLP or National Child Labour Project) has been reduced by over 16 per cent.” 
“NCLP is the only scheme focused on addressing child labour in the country. It is a central sector scheme where 100% of the funding is provided by the Government of India through the Ministry of Labour and Employment”, the analysis contended.
The analysis continued, though an online portal, PENCIL, was launched on September 26, 2017 “for better monitoring and reporting system to ensure effective implementation of the provisions of the amended Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986 and the National Child Labour Project (NCLP)”, the cost of implementing PENCIL as per the 2016 annual budget norms is just Rs 30 lakh per district. 
“This amounts to Rs 84.98 crore for 319 districts under PENCIL, assuming that all 319 districts do not have a vehicle, otherwise the cost would further go up”, the analysis said, adding, “With the NCLP budget going down in 2019-20, it only reinforces lack of commitment to address the problem and assumes that children working in family enterprises require no monitoring.”
No doubt, said the analysis, some schemes do see “substantial increase.” Thus, “there is a 1,400 per cent increase for scheme for boys’ hostel from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, and 107 per cent increase in budget for the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) is very welcome.”
However, the analysis added, “In all probability the cost of child protection has gone up over the years with the cost every other service escalating.”
Then, said the analysis, “While the budget for anganwadi Services has increased from Rs 16,334.88 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 19,834.37 crore in 2019-20, the target set for number of anganwadis sanctioned in 2019-20 remains the same. Despite a 21.4 per cent increase in the allocation for anganwadi services, the only expected output is operationalisation of an additional 20,000 anganwadis.”

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