In Budget 2022, children receive lowest share of funds in over a decade: Report

Budget 2022: In the total budget for children, child health and child development have seen reduced share of allocation. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced the budget on Tuesday.

Budget 2022 Analysis: Education activists called the budget a 'disappointment' as child budget allocations sees fall (source: Shutterstock)Budget 2022 Analysis: Education activists called the budget a 'disappointment' as child budget allocations sees fall (source: Shutterstock)

Atul Krishna | February 2, 2022 | 03:44 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Children have received the lowest share of financial allocations in the last 11 years in Budget 2022, an analysis by HAQ Centre for Child Rights has found.

The analysis also found that some key ministries for children, such as the ministry for women and child development, have seen reduced funds in the Union Budget 2022. HAQ: Centre for Child Rights is a not-for-profit working on protection of child rights.

Other child rights activists and organisations, such as the Right To Education Forum, also called the budget a “disappointment” with no focus on curbing the learning loss caused by the digital divide between urban and rural areas of the country.

RTE Forum, a group of former bureaucrats, educationists and prominent education activists, also said that while there is an increase in school education budgets and major schemes such as the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, the funds are still lower than pre-pandemic levels.

Budget 2022: Reduced child budget

The analysis by HAQ found that there is a reduction in the child budget despite a significant increase in the overall Union Budget.

“The share of Budget for Children (BfC) is a meagre 2.35 per cent of the total Union Budget 2022-2023, a reduction of 0.11 percentage points from the share in 2021-22 Union Budget,” the analysis said.

“While the overall Union Budget increased by 13.25 per cent in 2022-23, a further reduction in the share of children, especially when the country is battling with COVID-19 is beyond explanation,” it said.

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In the total budget for children, child health and child development have seen reduced share of allocation while child education continues to receive the maximum allocation.

However, the share of child education in the overall Budget 2022 has witnessed only a marginal increase of 0.3 percentage points, the analysis found.

According to the analysis, although the share of child protection in the Union Budget 2022 has a minimal increase of 0.01 percent, some of the key ministries have seen a reduced allocations.

For instance, the ministry of women and child development has seen a significant reduction of 7.56 percent against what was allocated in Budget 2021.

Child health and nutrition

The analysis also noted that the mid-day meal programme which has been renamed as PM Poshan has also seen a reduction of 11.01 percent in Budget 2022.

It said that the programme’s funds were reduced by the same percent in the revised estimates for the current financial year from what was proposed in Budget 2021.

“The PM POSHAN scheme covers about 11.80 crore children studying in 11.20 lakh schools across the country. Yet, the allocation for PM POSHAN in the Union Budget 2022-23 remains reduced at the same level as the revised estimates for 2021-22,” the analysis said.

The Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0 scheme too has observed a reduced allocation of 11.28 percent, it said.

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“Despite the constant health risks posed due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation, the allocation for child health has decreased by 6.08 per cent, from Rs 3727.57 crore in the current financial year to Rs 3501.11 crore in Union Budget 2022,” the analysis said.

According to the analysis, child development programmes, which largely include nutrition and day care related programmes for children under 6 years, have seen a reduced allocation of 10.97 per cent in the 2022-23 Union Budget.

One of the most important schemes under child health, National Rural Health Mission (NRHM)- Reproductive and Child Health Flexi Pool has observed a reduced allocation of 8.22 per cent and the National Child Labour Programme (NCLP) has been reduced by 75 percent, the analysis found.

“National Child Labour Programme (NCLP) has been drastically reduced by 75 per cent in the Union Budget 2022-23 with a total allocation of Rs 30 Crore only. This significant reduction must be seen in the light of year 2021 declared as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour by the United Nations General Assembly while acknowledging the magnitude of child labour,” the analysis by HAQ said.

Disappointing budget

The RTE Forum also called the budget a “disappointment” as there is a focus on digital learning rather than reopening schools on a priority basis for marginalised children. The forum also said that despite the focus on digital learning there is no “real allocation” for expanding digital infrastructure.

“Union Budget 2022-23 comes as a disappointment. Yet again, the most marginalised children are not the priority of the state. UNICEF report suggests that 42 percent of children between 6-13 years reported not using any type of remote learning during school closures.”

“The finance minister in her speech, while acknowledging the learning loss, mentioned that e-VIDYA programme will be expanded to 200 channels. With more focus on digital learning, with no real allocations on expansion of digital infrastructure implies that the government is thinking of private investments and PPP to push digital education,” the RTE Forum said.

The forum also said that while there is an increase in allocations for Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, it is yet to return to the pre-pandemic level.

It also said that the Budget 2022 failed to address the learning loss, concerns on food security, nutrition, equity and inclusion.

“Along with learning, issues of food security and nutrition, equity and inclusion have manifested in heightened forms during the pandemic and the budget has failed to address these issues. The finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her speech failed to acknowledge the urgent need to reopen schools, where 80% of children aged 14-18 years reported lower levels of learning than when physically at school,” the forum said.

It also noted that there is no separate fund for gender inclusion despite it being one of the key promises in the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. The forum also criticised not allocating any funds to the National Scheme for Incentive to Girls despite the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affecting girls.

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