New Delhi: Child rights activists Tuesday raised serious concerns about the drastic cuts in the 2015-16 Union Budget outlay for a number of critical programmes such as Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme, National Nutrition Mission, Rashtriya Madhayamik Shiksa Abhiyaan (RMSA) and Mid-day Meal Scheme.
The allocation for ICDS Scheme has been reduced from Rs 18,195 crore in 2014-15 budget estimates to Rs 8,335.8 crore in 2015-16 budget estimates.
Likewise, the allocation for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has been reduced from Rs 27,758 crore to Rs 22,000 crore, Mid-day Meal Scheme Rs 13,215 crore to Rs 9,236 crore and the allocation for RMSA has been reduced from Rs 5,000 crore to Rs 3,565 crore.
In terms of overall budget, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has witnessed the sharpest cut of 51 per cent from the last budget, the cut for the budget of Ministry of Human Resource Development is 17 per cent and that for the Union Health Ministry is 13 per cent.
The child rights experts said such drastic cut in the Union Budget support for all such important government interventions for children would imply that the children of the country would be exposed to far greater degrees of vulnerability in various sector.
"The Union government's expectation that state government would re-prioritise their budget significantly and compensate for the cut in Union Budget allocation for these programmes seems unrealistic at this stage because the states are being given more autonomy in their spending but their overall resource envelope is not increasing much.
"And the state governments do have a number of competing priorities to address in their own budget," said Executive Director of the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability Subrat Das.
The activists said the Statement 22 was introduced in the Budget in 2007 giving recognition to the importance of committing to a Budget for children by listing out the schemes and programmes for children.
"In stark contrast, there has been a 29 per cent cut in the Budget for children this year. It now stands at an abysmal 3 per cent of the entire budget," said Enakshi Ganguly of HAQ: Centre for Child Rights.
"All flagship programmes of the government like SSA, Mid-day Meal, ICDS, and health related schemes, as well as allocations to the key ministries that implement them, stand severely cut," she added.
Dr Vandana Prasad of the Working Group of Children Under Six said, "India is home to the highest number of children with hunger and malnutrition, despite this, it does not appear that the government is serious about tackling the scourge of malnutrition."
This budget will have severe repercussions on children's health, she stressed.