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Child Rights: Activists fear increased child trafficking with reduction in welfare budget

Child Rights: The Indian Finance Minister has proposed a 33% reduction in budget allocation for child welfare funds in the Union budget presented in the country’s Parliament on Wednesday.

The proposal is being strongly criticized by child rights activists who maintain that this would lead to increased cases of child trafficking and child abuse in the country.

Trends of child trafficking in India

The National Crime Record Bureau reported a decrease in the number of trafficked children in 2020. In 2018 and 2019, 2,834 and 2,914 children were trafficked respectively. However, in 2020, the number dropped to 2,222. Out of the 4,700 people trafficked in 2020, 1,377 were minor boys and 845 were minor girls.

Child rights organizations rue budget-cut

Several child rights activists and organizations have expressed concern over the reduced allocation of the child welfare fund in the Labour Ministry in the budget presented in the Parliament. This year’s allocation saw a 33% reduction in comparison to last year and is expected to hinder the progress towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG-2025) of a child-labor-free world by 2025.

India has the largest share of child labour in the world, and the reduction in allocation for the Labour Ministry may lead to a rise in child labour and trafficking cases. The allocation has seen a consistent decline, from Rs.120 crores in 2021-22 to Rs.30 crores in 2022-23, and now only Rs.20 crores for 2023-24.

While the budget has increased the total allocation for child welfare by 12%, there are no special provisions for free education for all girls up to 18 years of age, which will negatively impact the fight against child marriages.

PM SHRI Scheme

The new scheme “PM SHRI (Schools for Rising India)” introduced in this year’s budget has been praised by the masses. The scheme will develop over 14,500 PM SHRI Schools over 5 years, catering to over 20 lakh students and aiding the government in implementing the National Education Policy (NEP 2020).

Increased budgetary allocation for NAPDDR

Child rights organization, Bachpan Bachao Andolan has welcomed the increase in allocation for the “National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (NAPDDR)” policy by 56%, and the sharp increase of 162% for Tribal Affairs.

Dhananjay Tingal, Executive Director of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, stated that while the budget had some positive points, more could have been done to achieve the SDG-2025 objectives, particularly in terms of the welfare of children. The role of the Labour Ministry and MGNREGA schemes is important in ending child labour, trafficking, and marriage and the allocation could have been increased

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