The annual Budget exercise is the most important economic instrument of the government. It is also an expression of the government’s intent, priorities and policy decisions. Proper implementation of policies or programmes is dependent on provision of adequate financial resources. When it comes to children, adequately investing in their present is crucial for their current and future development.
India has seen an increase in the investment pattern on child-specific budget components of the Union government from 2.39% in 2000-01 to 4.56% (Revised Estimates) of the Union Budget in 2013-14, although the allocations have been more or less stagnant over the last five years. Yet the picture is far from clear. In the 2014-15 Budget, child allocations stands at 4.52% with absolute amount increasing slightly from R72,496.21 crore in 2013-14 (Revised Estimates) to R81,075.26 crore in 2014-15 (Budget Estimates). This implies that the increase in child budget has not been proportionate to the year-on-year increase in the Union government’s budget over the years. When translated into GDP figures, this comes to only 0.63% of GDP. This is far below the 6% GDP spending on education alone as promised in the party’s election manifesto.
Sector-wise priorities of child-specific schemes may be viewed by categorising these into four groups—(1) child education, (2) child development, (3) child health, and (4) child protection. Education-related schemes include those up to secondary education (not including higher education), while child development schemes include those related to early childhood care and nutrition, and the child protection category include programmes/schemes for protecting children from difficult situations.
If we analyse the total child budget in 2014-15 (BE) with respect to these categories, 72.3% is earmarked towards education. Similarly, the share of child development is seen as 23.1%. Again, 3.5% is earmarked for child health and 1.1% for child protection. The trend of distribution amongst these sectors has consistently been the same across the last five years.
In the education sector, there has been a marginal improvement in the allocation for primary education, as per the increase for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan from R27,258 crore to R28,635 crore. New schemes include those for teacher training and adult education, as well as support to madrasas with allocations of R1,250 crore and R275 crore, respectively. In terms of policy intent, two schemes merit attention—the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana” with an allocation of R100 crore, and the announcement on ensuring toilets and drinking water in girl schools.
In child health,