The EU budget through the lens of a child
“I want to grow as an empowered and responsible citizen, actively participating and contributing to nation building. Please activate my ecosystem and allow me to dream. Support me to develop my physical, intellectual and moral abilities; I ask for a loving family and a safe home, a balanced diet, a school to go to, access to health care, a friendly and safe neighborhood to play in and fresh air to breathe. Please let me have a healthy and happy childhood and opportunities to learn and grow into a capable adult and realize my potential to achieve my dreams.
I want to feel privileged to be a young citizen of [email protected] and I want to be part of the journey that leads to [email protected] Please let me dare to dream not just to survive but to thrive.
An invisible child living in a street situation.
The Union Budget 2022-23 was hailed as a model for 25 years before [email protected] However, it does not meet the expectations of its children, who represent more than 40% of its population. Investing in children is essential to ensure their future and that of the country.
The once-in-a-century pandemic may be waning, however, its impact is here to stay – derailing decades of progress towards the 2030 SDGs, reversing gains made for children and gravely putting jeopardize their future and the vision of a progressive India.
The most vulnerable population is struggling disproportionately with the impact of the lingering pandemic. An estimated 150-199 million additional people fell into poverty in 2021-22. Their children – girls and boys are the beneficiaries because their parents have lost their sources of income, limiting access to health, nutrition, education and protection. The 2022-2023 Union budget has provided an opportunity to increase public investment in children and mitigate the damage.
Budget allowances for children – scratching the surface
The announcement of 80 lakh affordable houses in rural and urban areas under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana to provide housing for homeless and street-connected children is a huge win, while in majority of other key areas, there is a reduction or only a marginal increase in benefits:
The budget for children amounts to 2.35% of the total EU budget 2022-23 – a further reduction from 2.46% (BE) in 2021-2022, and well below the 5% (recommended by the National Children’s Action Plan 2016) .
The share of child health stands at 0.09%, which is down from last year, while the share of child development fell from 0.57% to 0 .45%.
The share of children’s education increased slightly, from 1.74% to 1.77%. This is well below the 6% of GDP prescribed by the 2020 National Education Policy.
The share of child protection stands at 0.04% – a slight increase from 0.03%.
Early childhood education finds no place in budget allocations contrary to the emphasis it receives in the NEP 2020.
The allocation for the basic health and nutrition sector is not sufficient to meet the health and nutrition needs of children, especially those remaining in the pandemic-affected country. Marginal increase in allocation for Pradhan Mantri Mantri Vandana Yojana to ensure good nutrition for pregnant and lactating women may not be sufficient to extend benefits to wider population. There is an 11% drop in the allowance under the Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM POSHAN formerly midday meal) program at a time when it is most needed.
The allowance for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act remains the same as last year. There is no possibility of increasing the compulsory days at a time when it is most needed to ensure the livelihoods of families and the childhood of their children.
We hope that the National Vocational Qualifications Framework, while aligned with industry needs, will also focus on the skills of development professionals, including frontline labor such as Anganwadi workers, health and child protection, to effectively serve the most marginalized children.
The pandemic has pushed a large number of children into child labor. The increased allocation under the Child Protection Services under the Ministry of Gender and Child Development will be aimed at preventing children from entering the labor market, as the 75% drop in the allocation for the National Child Labor Project is worrying.
Given the increase in online violence and abuse against women and children, the drastic reduction in funds allocated to the prevention of cybercrime against women and children is puzzling.
Although 1,35,184 POCSO cases are pending trial (National Crime Records Bureau 2020 report), there has been no change in the allocation of special expedited courts under the Department of Law and Justice.
The budget is silent on the adaptation of affected communities to climate change, which is grappling with a child rights crisis.
While the budget recognized the relevance of learning outcomes for children, the protection and nutrition needs of children and the social protection of the most marginalized families deserved greater attention. Only a well-balanced and child-focused budget can pave the way for “inclusive development”.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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