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Home / India News / 2007 / February / February 27, 2007
The Budget and the Missing Child

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The Budget and the Missing Child

Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

This annual budget is a time for the government to demonstrate its commitment to investing in securing the long-neglected rights of India's children. Ingrid Srinath CEO, CRY - Child Rights & You observes: "In the past few years, this has been limited to tokenism and the collection of additional taxes such as the education cess in the name of children.

There is to date no statement on how that additional tax burden has been effectively spent in ensuring all children get a common minimum standard of education. In deed, as contrasted with mere words, the government has gone to the other extreme of abdicating its responsibility by shelving the enabling legislation for the Right to Education with all monetary guarantees. This, at a time of unprecedented economic growth, when we finally have the means to deliver on the long overdue promises to increase public spending on education, health and to provide assured livelihoods for families to secure the future of their children,

In each annual budget, the government only demonstrates its craven allegiance to the wealthy, the biggest beneficiaries of economic growth in the country. This is clearly shown in the choice of sectors on which the government is willing to bear revenue losses.

While social sector subsidies are clearly visibilised, concessions that benefit the corporate sector, for example, are less obvious. According to the Ministry of Finance's own the estimates, these, including the SEZ Act will entail a revenue loss of Rs 100,000 crores over a four year period. Interestingly, SEZ came into effect, despite 'revenue loss' and in the face of the direct impact it would have on livelihoods of current landholding peasants who would be rendered landless and landless labourers going jobless. Simultaneously, many social policies and legislation were shelved, diluted or limited in scope due to lack of adequate funds.

CRY asks that the government make the rights of children the focus and the key evaluation criteria of economic policy. At just over 4%, state investments in children are grossly inadequate, considering that they are 45% of our citizens, or even in comparison with other emerging economies.

Allocations to education are still desperately short of the 10% necessary to universalize access and ensure uniform quality. A commitment to provide quality education up to the age of 18, ensuring secondary schools within a one km radius of hamlets, employing well-trained educators on tenure, instead of inadequately trained para-teachers on contract would signal a shift from empty promises to coherent action.

Renew commitment to child protection

With the rural economy in shambles and non-agricultural rural employment opportunities practically non-existent, migration into cities is a natural corollary. In this shift, children are the hardest hit, losing out on their right to childhood. They are forced to assume adult roles of caring and taking responsibility for their siblings and contributing to family livelihoods.

Child protection has received scant attention. It remains the least funded and is accorded the lowest policy priority, surfacing only when heinous atrocities come to media attention . CRY asks that the government invest the resources necessary to ensure convergence of protection services, within the gram sabha jurisdiction.

Provide for a universal healthcare programme

Studies indicate that the cost of healthcare is directly impacted by the level of poverty. When there is a health emergency, children are most impacted. The government's own data reports that 46% remain malnourished and that that stark statistic has barely moved in the past decade. At least 10,000 die each day from utterly preventable causes.

CRY asks that special provision be made to develop a universal health care programme that guarantees coverage for both sudden emergencies and chronic ailments. As a first step, the government should commit to a 5% allocation in this union budget, towards childhood ailments. This should be in addition to the current focus on immunization.

Priorities child rights

Last year the Finance Minister proclaimed that 'Growth will be our mount; equity will be our companion; and social justice will be our destination.' This year we hope that pious platitude is translated into substantive action for our most vulnerable and underserved citizens.

CRY - Child Rights and You, India's premier Child Rights organisation, believes that every child is entitled to the basic rights of survival, protection, development and participation. In a word, to childhood. CRY has learned over 28 years that ensuring these sustainably is only possible when grassroots action is combined with community empowerment, active citizenship and advocacy.

Madhura Kapdi, Child Rights & You, +91 (022) 2301 0445

Sangeeta Panna, IPAN, Mumbai, +91 (022) 2266 1767

Source: Child Rights & You (Business Wire India)

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