Despite children forming one-third of India's population and continued independent reports on their neglected state, programs that hope to prevent and protect their rights received a paltry allocation of Rs. 90 crore (USD 20 million). Statistics concerning children are embarrassing to a nation that boasts a 9.2 percent gross domestic product growth, an increasing number of Forbes billionaire lists, and lavish and garish weddings of the rich and the famous.
About 80 percent of Indian children continue to be anemic, 47 percent malnourished, infant mortality rate unchanged at 67 per 1000, and sex ratio continues to be awful at 927 girls to 1000 boys. In some areas even Bangladesh, the poorest nation in the world, fares better than India such as in infant mortality numbers. Among the sex ratio, even Nigeria and Pakistan with their appalling sex-discrimination record fare better at 965/1000 and 958/1000 respectively.
While the federal budget upped the allocation to the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry from Rs. 4,795 crore (USD 980 million) to Rs. 5,793 crore (USD 1.3 billion) this year, the ministry has decided to allocate only a small fraction of it for preventive programs. Apart from the paltry allocation for prevention and protection programs, the Ministry seems to have allocated only Rs. 15 crore (USD 3.4 million) on an innovative program that rewards parents having a girl child and ensuring her development.
To make matters worse, certain schemes related to street children, working children, and those in conflict with the law are being transferred from the ministry of social justice and empowerment to the WCD. If India is to realize its advantage of a young population in the next few decades, it needs to invest heavily in children and especially girls. Haphazard planning and allocation will only ensure that this advantage is frittered away.