Noting that the safety of children should be the centerpiece of the Union Budget, child rights organizations have demanded an increased allocation for the elimination of child labor and more investment in strengthening the social safety net.
They also said that effective preventive mechanisms need to be accelerated on an immediate basis.
The Union Budget 2022-23 will be presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday.
Executive Director Kailash Satyarthi Foundation Jyoti Mathur said the overall percentage share of budget allocation for children in the Union Budget must be improved, and it should be restored at least to the level of 2020-21. ”It is noteworthy to mention here that the percentage share of the Union Budget allocated for the welfare of children has been reduced from 3.16 percent (2020-21) to 2.46 percent (2021-22). This is the lowest share of the budget allocated for the welfare of children in the last 11 years,” she said. ”In addition, if we look at the budget allocation for the previous two years, the total budget allocated towards the welfare of children has declined by 11 percent in 2021-22 over 2020-21 (a decline from Rs 96,042 crore in 2020-21 to Rs 85,713 crore in 2021-22),” she said.
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There should also be an increased allocation for the elimination of child labor with a comprehensive national action plan, Mathur added.
Other suggestions include an enhanced budgetary allocation for rehabilitation of bonded labor, which is a part of the overall budget head of the National Child Labour Project (NCLP).
”Since the budget head of the NCLP also includes grants-in-aid to voluntary agencies and reimbursement of assistance to bonded labor it appears impossible to provide any assistance to the victims of bonded labor as the allocation is grossly inadequate even to maintain the fixed expenditure under the NCLP,” she said.
Mathur highlighted the need for establishing an international Centre to address incidences of ‘online child sexual abuse.
Chief Executive Officer of CRY–Child Rights and You, Puja Marwaha, said children should be placed at the center of any development discourse – both for themselves and for the inclusive growth of the country – and this should be the centerpiece of the Union Budget.
Elaborating on the multiple impacts of the Covid pandemic on children, she said, ”Experiences and learnings from prior humanitarian crises have shown that children tend to be disproportionately affected during such critical times and their rights, lives, and well-being are at risk of irreparable harm.” ”Owing to disruptions in education and health-care systems, lack of access to nutrition and protection services over the past two years, their vulnerabilities, especially within rural areas and marginalized communities have increased multiple times,” Marwaha sadi.
COVID-19 has impacted children in diverse ways – be it physical, emotional, cognitive, or social repercussions, including transition or migration, familial crises, isolation from friends, discontinuity of learning, environment, quarantine, hospitalization of self or family members, and entry into adult roles of work or marriage, she said. Consequently, the lives of India’s children were severely restricted in terms of their access to education, nutrition and development, and child protection, Marwaha added.
Underscoring the importance of adequate provisioning for the child protection systems, she said, ”Given the increase in numbers of children facing risks such as entry into child labor or marriage, more investment in strengthening the social safety-net and effective preventive mechanisms needs to be accelerated on an immediate basis.”