The Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) has noted with concern , the reduction in allocation of funds in the current year’s budget under various programmes and schemes relating to children. In the budget for 2021-22 there has been a reduction of 11% in the total budgetary allocation relating to children. As a percentage of the Union Budget funds allocated for the welfare of children are 2.46% of the total budget as against allocation of 3.16% of the budget for the children in the year 2020-21. It is a matter of great concern that the share of the budget allocated for the welfare of children during 2021-22 is the lowest during the last eleven years.
Bonded labour and child labour continue to exist in our country despite the huge economic progress made since independence. As per the Census 2011 estimated number of child labour in India in 2011 was 10.1 million.
National Child Labour Project Scheme (NCLPS) was started in 1988 with the aim to identify, withdraw and rehabilitate all children from labour. Similarly, a Central Sector Scheme for Rehabilitation of Bonded Labour came into force in 2016. As per Central Sector Scheme for Rehabilitation of Bonded Labour, a bonded labour is entitled to rehabilitation amount of INR. 1 Lac and a child bonded labour and woman bonded labour are entitled a rehabilitation amount ranging from INR. 2-3lacs. In addition to this as a part of Nation Child Labour Project, District Project Societies (DPSs) have been created in 312 districts of the country. Similarly, 3424 Special Training Centers (STCs) have been set-up to provide bridge education to rescued child labourers.
As per the information obtained from official sources the fixed annual expenditure on running the DPSs and STCs comes to INR. 29.20 crores and 113.81 crores respectively. Similarly, the expenditure on monthly stipend to 58,896 rescued child labour @ INR 400 per month the total expenditure on this comes to 28.27 crores, thus, the fixed expenditure which the MoLE has to incur under the National Child Labour Project comes to INR 171 crore approx.
Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) a sister organisation of the KSCF has rescued 1,417 child bonded labour during the year 2020-21 up to 20th of January. The rehabilitation amount due to these children at the rate of 2 Lacs per child under the Government of India’s Central Sector Scheme for Rehabilitation of Bonded Labour comes to INR. 28.3 Crores. Needless to add, rescues of child bonded labour are also taking place across the country. Therefore, the total number of child bonded labour rescued in 2020-21 is likely to be much larger.
However, even if only the rehabilitation amount due to the children rescued by the BBA is taken into account and added to the fixed annual expenditure of the MoLE under the NCLP, the total the funds needed for running the NCLP and providing rehabilitation amount to the children rescued by the BBA come to INR.199.6 Crores, as against this the allocation is a meager INR.120 Crores. These figures very clearly bring out that the welfare of children is not a priority for the Government.
Child protection services (CPS) cater to children who are either victims of abuse and exploitation or are likely to fall out of the safety net of the society. It is the flagship scheme of the Government of India to cater to the protection needs of children. All rescued children from exploitative labour, trafficking, abuse, early marriage etc. are provided protection services under the CPS. This scheme also provides funds for running of institutions set up under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. NCRB annual publication Crime in India shows that the crimes of sexual abuse and exploitation of children are on the increase. The vulnerabilities of families and children have gone up further due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Thus the CPS have become all the more important today.
In the current year’s budget, the Child Protection Services has been merged in a new programme under the MWCD named Vatsalya Mission. In this programme besides the CPS, Child Welfare Services have also been merged. On the other hand, the allocation for the Vatsalya Mission is INR 900 Cr against the allocation of INR 1500 Cr for CPS alone in FY 2020-21. This reduction is also likely to affect various child protection services which the State provides adversely.
An analysis of funds allocated for primary and secondary education of children leads to the same conclusion. The allocation for Samagra Shiksha Programme of the Ministry of Education which includes primary, secondary and teacher’s education has been reduced by 20% vis-a-vis budgetary allocation for 2020-21. The allocation for the year 2021-22 is INR 31,050 Crores as against the allocation of INR 38,751 Crores in FY 2020-21. This reduction in fund allocation is likely to affect adversely the primary and secondary education of children, especially those from the poor families who depend on govt. schools. Further, since teachers training is also included in Samagra Shiksha Programme this reduction will also impact adversely the teachers training making the achievement of the objective of providing quality education to children a remote possibility.
The New Education Policy lays a lot of importance on pre-school education of children between 3-6 years. The pre-school education to children of poor families is imparted by the Anganwadis. The Anganwadis also provide food and supplementary nutrition to children up to the age of 6 years as also to pregnant and lactating mothers. In the current financial year, two major schemes run by MWCD viz Anganwadi Services and the National Nutrition Mission (NNM) have been merged together into a new scheme named “Saksham Anaganwadi and Poshan 2.0”. The budgetary allocation for ICDS during 2021 was INR 19,916 Crores. It was INR. 3,700 Crores for NNM, thus the total budgetary allocation for the two programmes came to INR. 23616 Crores. As against the same the allocation for the new scheme named above is INR 19,413 Crores. i.e. there has been a reduction of 18% in the fund allocation for the new scheme. That with the reduced allocation of funds the twin goals of improved pre-school education of children and improvement in their nutritional status will be achieved, is nothing but a pipe dream.