Should ‘inclusion’ not include Children?

While presenting the Union Budget for 2013-14, the finance minister presented a budget with three faces in mind, faces that supposedly ‘represented the vast majority of the people of India.’ “The first is the face of the woman… the second the face of the youth… and third the face of the poor,” he said, during his speech. It is pitiful that over 42% of India’s population who are children, do not seem to have the face that ‘represents’ the nation.

The percentage of child budget within the allocated budget continues to be around the 4% mark, for many years now. In absolute numbers, allocation for children has increased from 71703 crores (BE) for 2012-13 to 77820 crores (BE) in 2013-14. But the overall percentage has decreased from 4.8% to 4.67%.

What is sadder is that, among the allocation for children, education is 71.6%, health 3.3%, child development and nutrition 24.2% and protection a mere 0.7% of the overall 4.6%. With recent debates over juvenile justice and the reported increase of crimes by and against children, it cannot be explained why the government has reduced allocation for child protection from 400 crores to 300 crores. Dr Jayakumar Christian, CEO and National Director, World Vision India points out that “Our children continue to be rejected and treated as ‘non-representative’ faces of the country. It is imperative that the nation’s progress and development start with its children”.

India’s malnutrition continues to be the shame of the nation. And with almost half of our country’s children being stunted (45%), the allocation for Women and Child Development Ministry remains at a mere 1.2% of the total expenditure. And ICDS and SABLA together have 18285 crores. 

The 12th Five Year Plan Outlay for health is 268,551 crores. But this doesn’t seem to be even faintly reflected in the budget provision for the health sector. 

A recent report pointed out that the international aid to India on healthcare (around $700 billion) was only a fraction of what government spent. With one of the least government public spending on health (1.4% of GDP), the burden of sustaining their healthcare is already heavily on the poor in our country. 70% Indians spend their entire income for accessing quality healthcare and for buying medical drugs. Every year, 39 million are pushed into poverty just because they had to spend or borrow money for financing their healthcare needs. It is high time the government increases its health spending to plug the gap between international aid and government spending on healthcare.

When the government is aiming for an inclusive growth, the very process of budget preparation has to be inclusive of all sections of society from across the country and not just the corporate lobbyists and representatives based on proximity to the capital. The budget preparation process should engage civil society organisations, non government organisations who know grass root realities. Says, Dr Christian, “if inclusion was one of the objectives of the budget exercise, should not listening to the grassroots be essential rather than be left to chance?”

The Government cannot afford to exclude its children from its budget and policy priorities when they talk of ‘inclusive growth’. Growth naturally and unfortunately ‘excludes’ the vulnerable and favours the bold and the beautiful. It is imperative that we as a nation be intentional about inclusion first and then about growth.

World Vision India:
World Vision India is a Christian humanitarian organization working to create lasting change in the lives of children, families and communities living in poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, caste, race, ethnicity or gender.  Spread across 174 locations in India, World Vision works through long-term sustainable community development programmes and immediate disaster relief assistance.

For media queries or a child-focused perspective on the Budget 2013, please contact: 

Pradeep Daniel, World Vision India
+91 99401 92290 | pradeep_daniel@wvi.org