While India has been making progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the existing inequalities among vulnerable populations -- with children being affected the most.
Children, who comprise 40 per cent of India's population, have been severely affected in terms of their education, health and protection.
Children have been pushed further into poverty as parents have lost income sources, and are faced with reduced access to health, nutrition, education and protection services.
In the 2021 Budget, there is an urgent need to increase public funding on health to 2.5 per cent GDP and invest proportionately in public health and primary health care. To facilitate achieving universalization of health services there needs to be a target of reducing households facing catastrophic health expenditure by 25 per cent, by 2025.
Children are susceptible to infections with high risks of mortality and morbidity especially with COVID-19 and to reduce out-of-pocket expenditure for vulnerable families, there is need to enhance Jan Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram entitlements for children up to two years from one year.
There also needs to a benchmark nutrition spending to a minimum of Rs 38,571 crores to fully finance core direct nutrition interventions under ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) and NHM (National Health Mission). To ensure maximum coverage and effective budget planning, findings suggest the determination of local state-wise unit cost.
It is strongly recommended to expedite and prioritize the expansion of Pneumococcal Vaccine (PCV) for children in full national immunization schedule and inclusion in all states.
Also, the country's health infrastructure, more so in the wake of the pandemic, revealed a need to enhance resources for strengthening oxygen infrastructure.
With the introduction of improved oxygen sources and regular capacity building, India could combat childhood pneumonia.
The Union Budget needs to see an increase in WASH (Water Station and Hygiene) allocation under Swachh Bharat Mission (rural and urban) at schools, AWCs (Aanganwadi Centers) and health centres and maintain budget provision to AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation), NULM (National Urban Livelihoods Mission) & Smart Cities Mission for children under-five.
a. Increase public funding on education to 6 per cent GDP as mandated by NEP (National Education Policy) 2020 with a clear financial plan.
b. Include COVID-19 sub-plan to ensure safe return of children with dedicated allocations on WASH, additional classrooms and staffing in both schools and AWCs.
c. Enhance Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (SMSA) allocations to ensure learning continuity and equitable digital access for 247 million children affected by COVID-19.
d. Increase SMSA allocation for teacher capacity-building and training to include psychosocial care and other needs of the crisis as only 2 per cent SMSA allocations is for teachers' education.
e. Increase Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE) share to more than 1.4 per cent total government expenditure as stated in NEP as States are currently struggling with severe revenue shortfall.
f. Separate budget line item for curriculum development and building capacities of ECCE providers (as per ECCE Policy).
a. Increase public funding for child protection services to 1.5 per cent GDP. To strengthen and capacitate existing mechsms, set up a dedicated division in NIPCCD (National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development) on training with focus on psychological support and a systemic competency-based training.
b. Increase allocation for Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS). Enhanced allocation is needed under sponsorships with renewed district needs analysis to prepare district child protection plan. The meagre allocation of Rs 2160/- per child per month should be increased to improve quality in Child Care Institutions.
c. Increase allocations to adapt and strengthen child-line and women helpline for increased domestic violence incidences in COVID-19 context. With provision of safety measures (PPE Kits) and provision for Integrated Command Control Centre (ICCC).
d. Budgetary provision for setting up designated fast track special court (FTSC) in each district for POCSO cases (Prevention of children from Sexual Offences) to Rs 767.26 crores from current share of Rs 474 crore to enable provisioning of 1023 FTSC courts required in 389 districts for disposal of 166,882 rape and POSCO cases across India.
e. Enhance budget for setting up anti-human trafficking unit and women help desks to Rs 150 crore from Rs 100 crore for coverage across 764 police districts in India.
f. Enhance budget on National Child Labour Project (NCLP) to streamline SOP on CALPRA and PENCIL portal to prevent and rehabilitate child labour.
g. Allocate resources for nationwide operationalization of SOP for care and protection of street children, by NCPCR and Save the Children and increase allocation to Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) to include homeless and street children.
a. Create fiscal space towards investing 1 per cent GDP towards child-focused social protection measures & benefits specifically:
i. Integrated nutrition social protection package with the convergence of nutrition-sensitive schemes for MNCHN and nutrition-sensitive social protection schemes like MNREGA, PDS and MDM.
ii. Inclusion of Child Cash Grant Scheme with priority to ULTRA poor.
iii. Second Living Child to be included in Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojna Scheme (PMMVY) and increase cash incentive from Rs 5000 to Rs 6000 per mother.
iv. National provisioning of conditional cash transfer programmes to promote girls education by replicating states programmes.
i. Design an urban employment guarantee scheme with unemployment allowances to benefit marginalized including migrants.
ii. Strengthen MGNREGA with increase in minimum person days from 100 to 150 days.
iii. Increase cash benefits under National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) by 100 per cent.
iv. Universalize Public Distribution System for vulnerable population with effective implementation.
The SDGs will not be achieved in India by doing more of the same, or adopting a one size fits all approach. A child-focused Budget 2021 will pave the way for the overall well-being of children and the nation at large.
Get more details on the importance of a Child-Friendly Budget at
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( With inputs from ANI )
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