India Has 10 Million Working Children, But Budget Cuts Rehab Spend
Child laborers carry wicker baskets full of hand-picked cotton. (Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)

India Has 10 Million Working Children, But Budget Cuts Rehab Spend

The central government has allocated Rs 90,594 crore for children in Budget 2019, a meagre 0.01-percentage-point increase to 3.25 percent 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 percent 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 percent) went towards education, followed by development (26 percent), health (3 percent) and protection (2 percent). 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 percent 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 percent in 2015-16 (budget estimate or BE) to 68 percent 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 percent) of students in India can read a grade II-level text (appropriate for seven- to eight-year-olds), IndiaSpend reported on Jan. 15, 2019. This was lower than in 2008 when 56 percent 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 percent), followed by minorities (122 percent) and OBCs (53 percent), while the fall in post-matriculation scholarship was the highest for SCs (-60 percent) and the least for OBCs (-17 percent).

Health Budget Declines, Anganwadi Services Get A Boost

Health saw a 0.5-percentage-point decline to 3.4 percent 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 percent 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 percent for all categories of workers,” Piyush Goyal, interim finance minister, said in his budget speech on Feb. 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 Feb. 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 percent funds allocated for Beti Bachao Beti Padhao from 2014-15 to 2018-19 were spent on "media-related activities" and less than 25 percent were disbursed to districts and states, The Quint reported on Jan. 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 Oct. 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 percent 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.)

This copy was published in a special arrangement with IndiaSpend.

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