While the Union Budget 2015-16 may have emerged as a positive and reformist budget, its impact on children is not that easy to ascertain. The total Child Budget in 2015 - 2016 has declined substantially both in absolute amount and as proportion of the Total Union Budget. In absolute terms, child budget has decreased from Rs. 81075.26 crore in 2014-15 (BE) to Rs. 57918.51 crore in 2015-16 (BE), which is a sharp decline. As proportion of Total Expenditure of the Union Government, total Child Budget has been declined from 4.52 percent in 2014-15 (BE) to 3.26 percent in 2015-16 (BE).
In 2015-16, only 0.41 percent of GDP has been earmarked for the Children who constitute more than 40 percent of population of India, as compared to 0.63 percent of GDP in 2014-15.
Within the Total Child budget in 2015-16 (BE), Child Education receives 79.0 percent followed by Child Development with the share of 15.2 percent. Child Health and Child Protection get the share of only 3.9 percent and 1.8 percent. Compared to the previous year, the total resources earmarked for Children became more skewed in favour of education. There is decline only in Child development (15.2 percent) as in other two areas viz. child health and child protection now get higher share of the child budget compared to the previous year.
It is worrisome that the allocation for Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) has declined from Rs. 18195 crore in 2014-15 (BE) to Rs. 8335.77 crore in 2015-16 (BE). On Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), allocation increased by only Rs. 2.23 crore compared to the previous budget. Similarly, massive cuts have been announced in Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (22000 crore from 27758 crore (BE) in 14-15) and mid day meal scheme (9236 crore as against 13215 crore (BE) in 14-15). The fine print also shows no mention of key schemes announced last year, details of which were expected in the current budget, including the National Programme on Malnutrition, and the teacher's training initiative, both of which showed negligible spending in the previous year.
Additionally, the Finance Minister expects that some additional tax resources could be generated in this fiscal year. If that happens, some additional amount of Rs. 1500 crore and Rs. 500 crore could be allocated for ICDS and ICPS respectively. But, this is totally uncertain and depends on how the economy behaves in the coming fiscal year.
The change in scenario has been explained as a consequence of the higher devolution of Union Taxes to State as recommended by the Fourteenth Finance Commission (FFC). Accordingly, Plan outlay of the Union Budget has declined on the whole. If children are to be unaffected by this devolution to states, there has to be an equal priority that states have to allocate to children's requirements, and essentially match the Central share component wise as per earlier budgets. Only then would the total resources available for the Schemes for the Welfare of Children remain unaffected.
In such a scenario, an estimation of the contribution of children's share would be dependent on further scrutiny of the state budgets; which will show exactly how much matching contribution is given by the states from their respective budgets for various child related programmes where there have been substantial cut from the union budget.
As a Child Rights Organisation working across 23 states, CRY hopes that State Governments will continue to prioritise the share of children in their respective budgets and that this shift from a Centre to State financing of essential schemes related to education, health, and protection of children will not adversely affect the situation of survival and development of children overall.