Budget hike for social sector garners mixed response

New Delhi, March 17 (IANS) Representatives from civil society and non-governmental organisations Saturday welcomed the 45 percent hike in investment on women and child development adding that funding gaps remain for certain social schemes.

"This budget will yield more benefits for children in India. We hope that the increasing trend continues and the gaps are filled in the next one or two years," said Thomas Chandy, CEO of Save the Children.
Among the mission for empowerment of child development, the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS), a programme for early childhood care and development, was given a sizeable increase of 58 percent from Rs.10,000 crore in 2011-12 to Rs.15,850 crore in 2012-2013.
"The ICDS is being strengthened and re-structured," Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in Parliament Friday.
The civil society groups said it was encouraging to see an increase in allocations for children's programmes, but gaps between the desired levels of funding and the allocations are substantial.
"We are happy, but there is obviously a gap that needs to be bridged," said Chandy.
While there was a positive response on the rise in allocation, experts said crucial schemes relating to women empowerment were given "token allocations".
"The steering committee on women's agency and empowerment for the 12th plan (five year) had suggested several important schemes. Of these, the ministry had launched women's helpline, development of distance learning programme on the rights of women, relief and rehabilitation of rape victims albeit with token allocations for most of them," said Subrat Das, executive director at the centre for budget and governance accountability.
"For most of the existing schemes, the outlays fall far short of those proposed by the Steering Committee on Women's Agency and Empowerment for the 12th Plan," Das added.
Under the Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls, SABLA, the finance ministry proposed to spend Rs.750 crore.
"This figure does not come close to the recommendation of the Working Group (planning commission), which recommends an average annual amount of Rs.6,400 crore," said Das.


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