Monday 28 October 2013

Children has only 16 per cent share of the state budget in last five years up to 2011-12 while state lags well behind in ensuring rights of the child

Children has only 16 per cent share of the state budget in last five  years up to 2011-12 while state lags well behind in ensuring rights of the child. The state of West Bengal prevalently has poor records on the issue of ensuring rights of thechild. Bengal has second highest in the number of child labour (5,51,584) among the states and UTs of India which is 11.07 per cent of country’s child labour population between age group 5 years and 14 years as per NSSO estimation of 2009-10. The state had the fourth highest number of out of school children (7,06, 713) in the year 2009 as per All India Survey of Out-of-School Children by MHRD, GOI. During the period 2008-09 total 25, 413 children reported missing from the state as per one report of Bachpan Bachao Andolan. Rate of institutional childdelivery and the rate of child marriage are of grave concern for the state.
During the last few years a number of policies, legislations and schemes have come in force across the country for ensuring and protecting the rights of child but in spite of that why the status of the children of west Bengal in terms of right to education, child labour, protection is not improving in comparison to the country or other state of India is a matter to be examined seriously. For example during the year 2009 the percentage of out-of-school children (age group 6-13 years) in the state was 5.25 while at the same time the average national percentage of out-of-school children was comparatively lower and that was 4.28.  If we examine the NSSO estimation of child labour we would find during the period 2004-05 to 2009-10 the number of child labour across the country decreased by 45 per cent while in the same period the number of child labour decreased by only 5 per cent in West Bengal.
To understand this abysmally slow progress of the state in realization of childrights we need to examine the trend in allocation for children in the state budgetand also the nature of utilization of the allocated amount. The recently published ‘West Bengal Budget for Children 2007-08 to 2011-12’ by SPAN and HAQ-Centre for Child Rights thoroughly studied the West Bengal State budget in Child Rights perspective. The study reveals that in responding to the grave situation of childrenas described in this  article the allocation for children in the state budget shown a very nominal increase  and  stays around 16.6 per cent of the total state budget.
Within the total budget allocated for the children the disproportionate sectoral allocation is another issue. While 14.72 per cent of the total state budget was allocated for the education of the children only 0.05 per cent of the total statebudget was allocated for the protection of the children. This unjustified low allocation for child protection has no answer for the issue of large number of childlabour, street children and trafficked children of the state and if the state cannot ensure protection for these children no matter how much money it allocated forchild education the goal of universalisation of education will never be reached. It is surprising that this simple equation has not understood and considered for years in state budget formulation.
Moreover if we examine the fund allocation and spending for Integrated ChildProtection Scheme (ICPS) which is the flagship program for child protection across the country started from the year 2009 we would found in the state of West Bengal during the period 2009 to 2012 every year a considerable amount of fund release by the central government remained unspent. This inability of utilizing central fund within the year caused curtail in allocated fund of central government for next year. In the period of   2010-11 73.81 per cent of allocated central share was curtailed and in the period 2011-12 7.22 per cent of allocated central share was curtailed due to less spending by the state in previous year. The situation ultimately impacted on the state child protection system which supposed to be enhanced by taking the opportunity of this centrally sponsored scheme.
Though the education sector for children had the highest allocation for children in the state budget it proves insufficient in fulfilling the need of the proper implementation of Right to Education Act 2009 which came in force on 1st April 2010. The National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) estimated that the State of West Bengal would required Rs.4000 crore yearly additionally for the implementation of RTE which would ensure free and compulsory education for all children of the state who are 6 years to 14 years old. This money would be allocated through Sarba Shiksha Mission where the fund sharing between central and state would be in 65:35 ratio. According to this estimation the state required to allocate Rs.1400 crore yearly as it’s share in SSA for the proper implementation of RTE. But during the period 2009-10 to 2011-12 the state share for SSA was not more than Rs.673 Core in any year. How we justify this lacking of the government of West Bengal in allocating necessary amount for fulfilling one of most important historical and constitutional mandates for fundamental right to education.
The allocation for children in state budget and the spending of allocated amount evidently suffers from less allocation, less utilization or improper uitilisation of allocated amount without considering the need of the children. Which clearly reveals that the perspective of child rights is absent in the state budget formulation which resulted in ignoring the deferent legislative and constitutional mandates.Children remained in lesser priority in the governance of West Bengal.
To improve the situation of children in the state who are most vulnerable section of population as of now in terms of survival, protection and development the process should begin from budget formulation where the budget need to be understood and analyzed in the perspective of child rights and considering the best interest of thechildren. It need to be questioned and discussed in public forum to ensure the right share of children state as well as country’s economy.
**Courtesy: Child Budget Analysis Work of SPAN and Haq-Centre for Child Rights
Biplab Das
Society for Peoples’ Awareness