This budget, which is being hailed as a blueprint for 25 year-long lead up to India@100, was a perfect opportunity for investing in children so that they realise the vision for India@100. Realising the potential of each and every child for nation-building is thus paramount. The prolonged pandemic has derailed decades of successes of development agenda as enshrined in SDGs. The existing inequalities have aggravated since the pandemic. Millions of children, girls and boys, have been pushed further into poverty as parents lose income sources, limiting access to health, nutrition, education & protection.
A greater focus on children, especially the most vulnerable, as desired, and children and their issues needed greater centrality in Hon'ble Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman's Union Budget speech on 1st February 2022, and the budget outlay for 2022-23.
India's union budget falls short to live up to the commitment for its children, who are 41% of its population, investing on whom is key to achieve equitable and sustainable development.
Budgetary allocations for safeguarding children
The Budget for children now stands at 2.35% of the total union budget. There is a further reduction from 2.46 per cent (BE) in 2021-2022, and is much below the 5 per cent recommended by the National Plan of Action for Children 2016.
Share of child health in the Union Budget 2022-23 stands at 0.09 % which is reduced from last year whereas the share of child development reduced to 0.45% from 0.57% in 2021-22.
Share of child education has marginally increased from 1.74 % in 2021-22 to 1.77% in 2022-23 Union Budget. This is far below the 6% of GDP as mandated in the National Education Policy, 2020.
Share of child protection in the Union Budget 2022-23 stands at 0.04%, which is slight increase compared to 0.03% in 2021-22.
The announcement of 80 lakh affordable houses in both rural and urban geography, with budget allocation of 48000 crore BE22-23 crores under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana is a welcome step and we anticipate that this would provide housing to the homeless and street connected children.
Schemes for the benefit of Children
Steps like supplementary teaching and continued focus on One Class One TV through PM e-Vidya expanding to 200 channels with a dedicated focus on regional languages for classes up to 12th can bridge the learning gap created due to the pandemic.
Setting up 'National Tele-Mental Health Programme' by creating a network of 23 tele-mental health centres of excellence across the country is a welcome step towards improving the quality of life of the citizens.
Allocation under Mission Shakti has increased from3109 crore BE2021-22 to 3184 crore BE2022-23. This includes the components of BBBP and One stop center.
The provision of two lakhs Anganwadi Centres to be upgraded under Saksham Aanganwadi will further improve the developmental outcomes. It is thus important to ensure that the benefits reach the most marginalised children, and adequately address their health and nutrition needs. The marginal increase of 1% from 2021-22 BE to 2022-23 BE in Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0 only partially meets the need for increasing investment in direct nutrition interventions. A lot more is desired for ensuring adequate investment in nutrition for children.
It is encouraging to see acknowledgement of the gap in learning outcomes and devising part strategy to combat learning loss enhanced due to pandemic.
Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan has received an increased allocation of 20.40 per cent with total allocation of INR 37383.36 Crore in 2022-23 against INR 31050.16 Crore at BE stage in 2021-22 Union Budget. This is a positive step to ensure learning continuity.This initiative needs to be complemented by Safe Back to School and face to face quality education. It is critical the initiative reaches the most marginalized children having limited access to technology.
There is an increase in allocation for Mission Vatsalaya by 63.6% (from 900 cr BE to 1472.17cr BE) from last year. With this increase, we are hopeful that there would be enhanced allocation in programme components of family based non institutional alternative care provisions like sponsorship and foster care. This is essential keeping in mind the data released by NCPCR of 1.47lakh children who have been orphaned due to Covid-19.
It is a welcome step to have Centres of Excellence for urban planning and design in different regions. This will help assess the region specific requirements for urban planning and development and will will have positive impact on children's well-being.
Focus on clean mobility is good move as our cities are most polluted in the world. If it is implemented In a timely manner than it will definitely help in tackling health issues among children and others, who are vulnerable to respiratory infections.
There has been an increase in budget allocation for NCPCR whereas the reduction in budget allocation for NIPPCD
will affect the capacity building of child protection workforce. The 326th department related parliamentary standing committee report (2021) commenting on the Demands for Grants, for WCD recommended that NIPCCD should focus on gender research and impact studies on schemes related to children coordination with Universities.
It is encouraging to see significant allocations in National Digital Health Mission (200crores BE2022-23), 60,000 crores for household tap water and support to the millet mission.
The announcement of 80 lakh affordable houses in both rural and urban geography, with budget allocation of 48000 crore BE22-23 crores under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana is a welcome step which will hopefully provide housing to the homeless and street connected children.
There has been a 51% increase in PDS budget (40000 crore BE2021-22 to 60561 crores BE2022-23), but no announcement has been made to include newly entrant poor keeping in line with the NFSA.
Urban planning courses is again a great step as it will help build newer talent to formulate better planning and design cities. It is important that these institutions to take cognizance of challenges of most deprived children, women and disabled challenges in cities. They can focus on developing evidence-based plan and programmes that will cater to holistic policy for growth of all (Leave no one behind).
The allocation of 300 crores BE2022-23 under Women Help desk/Strengthening of Anti Human Trafficking Bureau by MHA is a welcome move and we hope that this will be used for funding of setting up new or maintaining AHTU. However, it is important to note that anti-human trafficking bill is still waiting to be passed in the parliament.
There is no specific budget allocation for Early Childhood Education (ECE). Save the children demands specific allocation ranging between 1.5 to 2.2% of GDP for ECE.
There has been only a marginal increase in the budget allocation for the Pradhan Mantri Matri Vandana Yojana. This scheme ensures good food to pregnant and lactating women. However this may not be sufficient to extend the benefits of the scheme to a larger population.
The budget allocated for health and core nutrition sector is not enough to address the health and nutritional needs of children, especially of those left behind at a time when the country is in the midst of a pandemic
The marginal increase of 5% (9200 crore BE2021-22 to 9652 crores BE2022-23) for National Social Assistance Programme is not appropriately adequate for increasing the benefit size of NSAP by 100%.
The allocation for MNREGA remains same as 73000 crores BE2021-22 which does not leave any scope for increasing mandatory days under MNREGA.
There is a dip of 11% in allocation under Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM POSHAN) programme. (10,234 crores BE2022-23 from 10234 crores BE2021-22). This scheme was earlier known as the 'National Program of Midday Meal in Schools'
Aligning NSQF with industrial needs must also focus on skilling for development professionals including frontline workforce such as AWWs (with special focus on FLN skills), Healthcare and Child Protection Workforce for effective service delivery for the most marginalised children.
The COVID pandemic has pushed a large number of children into child labour, the drastic decline in allocation for NCLP is a cause of worry. NCLP has seen a major decline of 75% from 120crores BE2021-22 to 30crores BE2022-23. Although
the enhanced allocation under Child Protection Services in MWCD, will focus on preventive mechanism to stop children from getting into labour force.
Given the increase in online violence and abuse against women and children the drastic reduction in allocation for cybercrime prevention against women and children is a matter of grave concern.
There has been no change in allocation for fast track special courts under the ministry of law and justice given the large number of pending cases under POCSO. As per NCRB2020 report 135184 cases were pending trial from the previous year.
The budget is silent on adaptation of affected communities to climate change. While the budget acknowledged the relevance of learning outcomes for children, the protection and nutrition needs of children and social protection for most marginalized families deserved greater attention. A well balanced child-focused Budget can pave the way for an equitable India@100.
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