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Schemes for children remain under-funded: Save the Children

Feb 28, 2013

Save the Children welcomes Government of India's decision to increase allocations for the Mid-Day Meal Scheme by nearly 23 per cent, however we are disappointed by the allocations for other programmes meant for the welfare of children and mothers. Substantial gaps between the desired levels of funding and the allocations are left unaddressed by this year’s budget.

Whether it is health or education or women and child development, budget allocations are barely enough to cope with rising costs and inflation. “India has the highest number of malnourished children in the world, and while the prime Minister calls it a national shame, the funding levels currently need to be increased drastically to bring about a drastic improvement in the nutritional status and children’s health”, said Thomas Chandy, CEO, Save the Children.

On a positive note, all the money allocated for the Integrated Child Development Scheme was spent in 2012. The government has allocated Rs 17,700 crore in 2013-2014, an 11.7 per cent increase over last year. The Planning Commission Working Group has estimated the need for ICDS to be Rs 1.83 lakh crore over five years or over Rs 36,000 crore per year), which means that India’s children need further and a more substantial increase in the budgets in the coming years.
The right to education is a fundamental right of every child, and the government is bound to ensure that the Right to Education is implemented in letter and in spirit; however, so far only 7 per cent of schools have fulfilled the different criteria of the Act. The deadline for the implementation of the Act is March 2013, it is a given that we will not be able to meet that deadline, a mere 6 per cent increase in the allocation for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is unlikely to boost RTE implementation.

Child protection is another area which has drawn the attention of the entire country in the wake of several incidents of child sexual abuse, including the brutal rape and murder of 3 minor girls in Maharashtra. As a child rights organization we were hoping that government will prioritise the Integrated Child Protection Scheme and dramatically increase capacity and budget allocation for the scheme, however, the allocation has been decreased from Rs 400 crore last year to Rs 300 crore this year. “This 25 per cent cut in the budget is bewildering and depressing, it is pertinent to remember that India has the dubious distinction of having the world’s largest number of sexually abused children, if our child protection system was credible and well-funded, we would not be faced with so many gory incidents of child abuse”, said Chandy.

According to a study done by Save the Children, UNICEF and the Ministry of Women and Child Development, nearly 50 per cent of children in India have faced abuse. It is a sad irony that our governments have not been able to accord due priority to children which they deserve given to the fact that 42 per cent of total population of our country are persons below the age of 18 years. The Planning Commission has estimated Rs 5,300 crore for child protection over the Plan period (Rs 1,006 crore per year), so we certainly expect a drastic increase for child protection in the near future, Chandy added.

SOURCE: Save the Children

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