Enakshi Ganguly Thukral, Co-director, HAQ Child Rights Centre, Indranil Mokhopadhyay, Assistant Prof at Jindal Global University and Avani Kapur, Director at Accountability Initiative discuss #Budget2018 with Biraj Swain, Consulting Editor at Newslaundry and ICFJ Fellow, from children’s perspective. While the budget amount has expanded by over 13 per cent, the allocation for children has not kept pace. There has been a reduction in 13 schemes meant for children, including the child labour eradication programme and National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
They discuss the hype around the National Health Protection Scheme, which while promising an insurance cover of Rs 5 lakhs each for 10 crore families, is still not focusing on expanding and strengthening core public healthcare. Considering the insurance redemption is abysmally low and 60 per cent of the expenses are out-patient expenses, they feel this insurance will line the pockets of insurance companies and result in more profiteering with tax-payers’ money. Indranil shares the irony of the Health Ministry seeking Rs 25,000 crores but being given Rs 12,500 crores only.
They also highlight the decrease in allocation in Swachh Bharat Rural by 9 per cent and the inadequate increase in the nutrition programme. In education, they highlight the reduction in scholarships. Avani highlights the infeasibility and the inherent inequity in digital classrooms. Enakshi feels the holistic education from creche till Class 12 is a good announcement but is yet to be visible in any plan.
They call out the absence of cooperative federalism in the fiscal space and over-centralisation of programmes. They suggest that even if the Finance Minister and the budgeting team do not listen to social sectors’ advocates, they should listen to their own ministries and their budget request.
Enakshi shares #GemsWeMissedInBudget such as Buddhist Cultural Studies as allocation for Children and Essential Oils’ Allocation in the Primary Healthcare cum Wellness Centres. Overall, they feel, the budget narrative is confusing, money is not where the mouth is, it is a sub-par budget. They conclude that the Budget 2018 is not even ambitious or pro-poor enough for a poll-bound government. They score the Budget 2018 between 3.5 to 5 out of 10.
Watch the full discussion here: