Budget allocations for health, the importance of tracking budgets and the compounding effects of demonetisation were among the key topics discussed in the Newslaundry series on childhood matters.
Ahead of the first anniversary of demonetisation, Newslaundry consulting editor and ICFJ fellow Biraj Swain spoke to economists Saumya Shrivastava of the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, Indranil Mukhopadhyay of the Jindal Global University and Arpita Chakraborty of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy on how tracking budgets is an essential component of active citizenship.
They detail the many manifestations of demonetisation in villages on health and nutrition programmes and how it made the frontline workers i.e. anganwadi workers, ASHAs, very vulnerable to public ire. The economists list the lack of dal in days of notebandi even for the then-humble-now-celebrated khichdi at anganwadi centres.
They spoke of the changes in the Central government’s assistance to states after the 14th Finance Commission recommendations, the impact of allocations to Dalits and Adivasis after the 2017 budgetary changes to the constitutionally mandated Tribal Sub Plan, and the Scheduled Castes Special Component Plan.
The economists deconstruct budgeting for nutrition and early child development at state and Central levels and dwell upon why Tamil Nadu spends Rs 1,000 per capita while Madhya Pradesh spends Rs 325. They share their concerns about Uttar Pradesh’s stagnant budgets in capital components of social sectors i.e. health, education and nutrition, and the effect of inflation on while Maharashtra’s indices.
The economists take down the NITI Aayog’s latest diktat on performance-linked allocation to states for central schemes and say it will deal a body blow to the already backward states. This would further deepen the divide between the well-performing and the challenging states. They also critique the statement of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi that a few paise reach the end user for each rupee spent by Delhi and how it is cherry-picked to target public programmes for the poor.
They close with their recommendations for reading to better understand budgeting and nutrition budgeting. And importantly enough all these readings/researches are open access! Watch the full discussion here: