Child Protection & Welfare Was a Huge Miss in Budget 2018-19
This year’s Union Budget totally ignored the welfare of children, despite the govt harping on about this issue.
Expenditure on children is a step towards building the future of our country. In the Union Budget 2018-19, the fact that there has been a 15 percent hike in the amount allocated to the Ministry of Women and Child Development is commendable. The amount allocated has increased from Rs 17,885 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 20,555 crore in 2018-19. But the point to note is that the percentage share of the Budget allocated for welfare of children during FY 2018-19 has slightly decreased to 3.24 percent from 3.32 percent in 2017-18.
‘Child Rights’ to Move Beyond Mere Rhetoric
‘Child rights’ is talked about in national and international campaigns but the budget for children has had inconsistent financing over the past few years. We hear of child rape and child sexual abuse cases every other day in India. Recently, an 8-month-old baby was allegedly raped by her 28-year-old cousin in Delhi.
Are we waiting for more such incidents to happen to understand the gravity of the situation? 62 percent of the total budget allocated for the education of children may be commendable, but the amount allocated for protection of children is only 26 percent. Even the latest NCRB report 2016 highlights the need to prioritise the safety of children.
Crimes against children have increased in the past 3 years with increase of 13.6 percent (1,06,958) in 2016 over (94,172) in 2015. Kidnapping and abduction of children accounted for 52.3 percent of the cases, followed by POCSO cases (34.4 percent).National Crime Records Bureau, 2016
The trend suggests that the budget allocation for the welfare of children has increased substantially during FY 2009-10 to 2012-13. However, since FY 2013-14, it started declining and remained all but stagnant in the last four years (FY2015-16 to FY 2018-19). The budget allocation made under Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD) for the FY 2018-19 towards child protection constitutes only 0.84 percent of the total Union Budget.
Let’s Protect Our Children Before it’s Too Late
Is it enough for the government to harp on the issue of education for children when children don’t feel safe enough to go to school? ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ will remain a mere slogan if girls don’t feel safe enough to go to school. Quoting the NCRB report 2016, “in a majority of states, the percentage of girl children who went missing is higher than boys. The percentage of girls who went missing in 2016 is 65 percent of the total children missing in 2016.”
According to the NCRB data, incidents of child rape have increased by 82 percent as compared to 2015, reported The Indian Express. The report stated that 15,379 persons were trafficked during 2016, including 58.7 percent children.
Apart from child trafficking and child sexual abuse, missing children remains a burning issue. 1,11,569 children (41,175 males and 70,394 females) were reported missing in which maximum children who went missing were reported from West Bengal (15.1 percent) during 2016.
55,944 children were traced at the end of the year (including previous year) in India.
The government needs to start monitoring child care homes more closely. Most of these homes keep children in unhygienic and unsafe conditions. Child-friendly courts need to be set up. Our legal system is meant to support survivors of child abuse and not scare them away. In addition, police officials need to be sensitised to minors, and very young children especially.
Nelson Mandela rightly said, "There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children." One hopes that the government would take cognisance of the deplorable state of children in the country, and the many safety hazards posed to them, and allocate more funds to this cause.
(The author is a journalist and is currently working as a media officer with an NGO. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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