The Chhattisgarh (CG) government is going to present a Child-specific budget in the CG Assembly on Monday. As UNICEF Chhattisgarh is a pioneer organization working on Child Rights also with the state Government as a technical partner, our state correspondent Avdhesh Mallick carried out an exclusive interview with Job Zachariah, Chief, UNICEF Chhattisgarh.
Here are the excerpts of the interview-
What features are you hoping to see in the upcoming Child Specific general budget of the CG government 2021-22?
First, I thank the CG Govt for planning to present a Child Centric budget. It is a welcoming step. Secondly, the budget should be spending more on child development and it must be result-oriented. In short, it is an outlay and outcome-oriented budget. Indicators of a developed country or state is how much it invests in child education, health, nutrition, sanitation water, skill development and others. It must be clear how much the government will spend on child development. It will be a major feature.
Which area do you think should get more attention in the budget?
The nutrition part must get priority because malnutrition in the state is quite high, 37% of children are stunted due to it. Child health should be the second area of focus because IMR (infant mortality rate) in the state is quite high. You know due to high IMR 69% of children die in the first year. However, the positive part is that the Chief Minister's area of major concern is the high rate of malnutrition. He declared publicly that malnutrition in the state is a bigger challenge than the Naxal problem. He launched Mukhyamantri Suposhan Abhiyan. Hence, he will focus more into it. In addition, the second area should be health and third will be education.
Why should a government spend more on child development if it has any link with GDP?
I will tell you an interesting fact, state government GDP suffers a loss of 6% in GDP due to malnutrition. Which rests around Rs 5-6,000 crores. If school education increases by one year, GDP gains by 10%. Ill sanitation makes loss to exchequer by 5%. These data are based on global studies like the World Bank and other agencies. Therefore, we wanted the government to focus on children.
Is the government comfortable in making such huge investments in the Child Development sector?
Initially, the government may face some problems in making such investments but in long term, the government will reap benefits in the terms of an aincrease in income and boost in economy.
To tackle the challenges in the Child Development sector, how should the government plan for what tenure?
As long as the problem persists, however, it should be a mix of short term and long term plans.
Children in naxal affected areas face several issues related to child development and education. Do you want to make any appeal to the ultras?
Children are collective responsibilities for all and everybody should cooperate on the issue of child development and education. At least they must get an education up to 18 years and let them groom and develop. Secondly, we wish that children should get primary education in their own language. It will help in developing their cognitive skills and understanding