There are 444 million children in India, yet only 5% of questions in Parliament are about them

childrenHaq: Centre for Child Rights has come up with a new report, “Parliamentary Watch: Budget Session, Monsoon Session & Winter Session 2015”, analyzing the behaviour of India’s members of Parliament (MPs) on issues of children in the two houses, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Excerpts:

There are 444 million children in India. They make up almost one third of this country’s population. And even if they do not vote, as citizens of this country they have the right to be represented by you. And yet only 5% of the questions in the 2 houses in Parliament is about them.

Relate this to the small share of the budget that children receive (only 3.32 % of the total budget), and we will realise how little finances and time we invest on them. And yet we all know that the situation of children in India has remained a cause for concern. Poor learning scores, poor health indicators and large number of children who are victims of violence and education remain the reality of this country. How do we propose to march into a “developed India” if these realities remain?

How interested are our MPs on children related issues?

In 2015, all the three sessions – Budget, Monsoon and Winter – were held, a total of 27879 questions were raised in the 2 houses of Parliament, of which only 1421 questions were child related. Is this the total time the 444 million citizens of India deserve?

What is positive is the growing interest that we are seeing in children’s issues even if it is only a 2 percentage point increase in the number of questions raised.

This is also the year in which many flagship schemes related to children like Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), SABLA, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) etc. saw major cuts in the allocation. Regarding this many questions and concerns were raised by our Parliamentarians on reduced allocations in the schemes.

What are the issues that have concerned our MPs?

children2Various child related issues were raised by the parliamentarians in both the houses in 2015. Some of the Issues that are often presented and discussed are related to lack of toilet and drinking water facility, high dropout rate, New education Policy, quality of school Education, Juvenile Justice Act, POCSO Act, Missing Children, Adoption, Child Labour, Crime against children including child sexual abuse. During the winter Session the Juvenile Justice Bill was debated in the lower house on lowering the age of the juvenile offenders and the bill was passed amidst a lot of protest.

It is important to see the impact of agricultural policies on children. As has been stated in the answer to a specific question raised on neo-natal death:

“Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers (Deptt. of Fertilizers) have informed that they have not conducted any research to study neonatal mortality rate due to exposure of fertilizer chemicals in water. However, a paper published in the Journal of Development Economics examined the impact of fertilizers/agrichemicals in water on infant and child health using water quality data combined with data on child health outcomes using the demographic and health survey data from India. The study concluded that children exposed to high concentration of agrichemicals, during the first month, experience worse health outcomes in terms of neonatal and infant mortality rates” (Lok Sabha Unstarred Q No 749. 27.02.2015)

Low allocations for health has remained a matter of concern in the country, especially in the context of privatisation of health care. In this context the reply of the Minister to a question on expenditure on health is significant and also a matter of concern:

“As per World Health Statistics 2014 published by World Health Organization, ‘Out of Pocket’ expenditure accounts for 60 percent of total expenditure on health in India in2011. Public expenditure on health as percentage of total expenditure on health in India in 2011 stands at 30.5%.” (Lok Sabha unstarred Q No 2872. 13.03.2015)

children1On a question related to the implementation of POCSO Act, the Minister replied:

“As per the information provided by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, data on number of translator, interpreters and special educators deployed in the special courts are not maintained. Based on the information collected from the States/UTs, 478 Special Public Prosecutors (SPPs) have been appointed in 651 districts under the POCSO Act, 2012 from November, 2012 till March, 2015.” (Lok Sabha unstarred Q No 3689. 22.12.2015)

Budget Session 2015

Budget Session is critical for children and the investment in them. It is the session when we see political priorities reflected in the questions and the answers1. A total number of 12777 question were raised during the budget session 2015 of which only 749 were child focussed (just 5.86 %) of which 318 questions were in Rajya Sabha and 432 questions in Lok Sabha.

Mostly questions were education related and to specify the questions were on Scholarship Schemes, Vacant Positions and Shortage of Teacher, Quality of Teaching and learning, literacy rate, Mid-Day Meal in Schools etc.

Education sector received the maximum attention from our MPs and followed by development & Protection sector. Least questions were raised on Child Health.

Education related questions were on Primary Education, drop out of Children or out of school children, Girls education, basic facilities like toilet and Drinking water in school, New education policy, Mid-Day Meal etc.

Development related issues were only on Anganwadi centres, Creche facilities, SABLA etc. Under Protection sector mostly questions were raised on Missing children, Child Labour, Crime against Children, Juvenile Justice Act, etc.

Questions related to child health were on pulse polio Immunisation, Vaccinations, Malnourishment etc.

children3Monsoon Session 2015

The total number of questions raised during the Monsoon session2 was 7533 and out of which only 223 questions were on children’s issues which is just 3 % only. In Rajya Sabha out of 3150 questions, 108 questions were child related and in Lok Sabha total number of questions asking during the session was 4383 and 115 questions were child specific.

Most of the child focussed questions were related to education, questions like toilet and drinking water facilities in school, poor teaching standards in school, education in Madrasas and other minority institutions etc., reduction in allocation in school education, health related issues were mostly on Immunisation and vaccination, malnourishment of children, higher rate of infant mortality rate, Anaemia among children. Question were also raised on Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), SABLA Scheme and Crèche facilities for working women. On the issue of child protection, many questions were asked on Missing children, Child labour, Crime against children etc.

Winter Session 2015

Total number of 7569 questions were raised during winter session3 and out of which only 5.9% were child related (449 questions). 261 child related question were asked in Lok Sabha and 188 in Rajya Sabha.

Like the other two session similar questions were raised in the winter session, mostly on education related like dropouts from school, Amendment to RTE act 2009, Girls Educations, Scholarships etc., other issues raised were Immunisations, Vaccinations, Infant Mortality Rate, Anganwadi centres and issues like Crime Against Children, Child labour and on Adoption were also raised.

Download full report HERE

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