Saying that the Union budget allocation for children for 2021-22 is the lowest in a decade, NGO Child Rights and You (CRY) has expressed concern that this has happened in a year that saw huge overall impact including health and education of children due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CRY has analysed the component wise allocations towards various schemes and programmes meant for children in the Union budget presented earlier this month and found that this year’s share of budgetary allocations for children as proportion of Union budget is the lowest in the last 10 years. It has reduced by 2.05 percentage points from 4.51 per cent (2011-12 Budget Estimation) to 2.46 per cent (2021-22 BE).
The overall outlay for the Union budget 2021-22 is Rs 3,483,235.63 crores, and total allocation for children is Rs 85,712.56 crore. While the total Union budget (BE 2021-22) outlay saw an increase of 14.5 per cent, the share of allocations for children declined by 10.8 per cent, as compared to the last year, the CRY analysis shared with THE WEEK showed.
As for the proportion of total budget, there is a 0.70 percentage point reduction in total budget allocated to children compared to the last year, i.e. 2.46 per cent (2021-22 BE) when compared to 3.16 per cent in (2020-21 BE). In terms of GDP, the share of Child Budget as percent of GDP is just 0.38 percent in this year, which was 0.43 percent in 2020-21 (BE).
Commenting on the budget for children, Priti Mahara, Director of Policy Research and Advocacy at CRY said, “While the Union budget has focused on economic reforms, it has missed out on the fact that current investments on children would bear manifold dividends in future. On the other hand, inadequate investments will have cross-sectoral implications.
“Keeping in mind the huge impact created by the COVID-19 pandemic on marginalised children, the union budget has rightfully stressed upon the issues related to child health and nutrition and has launched Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan Abhiyan 2.0 with a total allocation for this year of Rs 19412.6 crore. But, this newly launched scheme is a combination of Anganwadi services, POSHAN Abhiyan, Scheme for Adolescent Girls and the National Creche Scheme). Compared to last year, this year the child health and nutrition budget shows a decline of 18.9 per cent or in absolute terms by Rs. 4528.81 crore (BE 2020-21 was Rs. 23941.41 Cr).
More allocations were needed towards child education and child protection. There was expectation was that Union budget would duly respond towards bringing marginalised children into the fold of remote learning, and focus on the required infrastructural facilities. But, there is a decline of close to Rs 7,700 crore in Samagra Shiksha Abhiyaan (BE 2020-21, the allocation was Rs 38750.5 crore while allocation in BE 2021-22 is Rs. 31050.16 crore), Mahara said.
“Also, as the pandemic put serious threats to child protection issues and as a result child labour, child trafficking and child marriage were expected to soar. We had high hopes that the Union Budget would look into these issues and come up with increased allocations in Integrated Child Protection Services Scheme (ICPS). But that didn’t happen either,” Mahara said.
She pointed out that the allocations for Integrated Child Protection Scheme now subsumed under Mission Vatsalya has declined from 1500 crores (2020-21 BE) to Rs 900 crore (2021-22 BE). Allocation in National Child labour Project (NCLP) remains stagnant at Rs. 120 Cr and Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao scheme has no specific allocation in BE 2021-22. It has been subsumed under newly launched Samarthya with an overall allocation of Rs 2432 crores.
“Overall, a broad analysis of the Union Budget 21-22 suggests that the Union budget has missed out an opportunity to include the children of India in building back the country better,” Mahara said.