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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
M A I L B A G

Union Budget neglects children

WE are writing to express our deep concern about the neglect of children under six in the Union Budget 2007-8. During a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Dec 19, 2006 (just after “Bal Adhikar Samvad”), we discussed the FOCUS Report, the rights of children under six and the recent Supreme Court judgement on the ICDS.

The Prime Minister had assured us that the UPA government was committed to the universalisation of ICDS, as stated in the Common Minimum Programme (CMP), and also to the implementation of the Supreme Court judgement. We are, therefore, startled and dismayed that this commitment is not reflected at all in the Union Budget.

The allocation for ICDS (Rs 4,761 crore) has barely increased in real terms, and is virtually unchanged as a proportion of GDP. It is a mystery to us how the CMP commitment and Supreme Court judgement can possibly be implemented within such meagre budget allocations.



The court ruling requires an increase in the number of Anganwadis from the present 9.4 lakh to 14 lakh at the very least by December 2008. Higher allocations are also required to enhance the quality of ICDS services.

According to the Budget, the Centre will spend less than Rs 5,000 crore this year on children under six, who represent more than 15 per cent of India’s population. This compares with Rs 96,000 crore to be spent on “defence”. This is a staggering and unacceptable imbalance in Budget priorities.

The contrast is all the more shocking at a time of growing evidence (particularly from the National Family Health Survey) that there has been no substantial improvement in infant and young child nutrition, including optimal breast feeding practices, during the last eight years, in spite of runaway economic growth.

We urge the Prime Minister to intervene and ensure a fairer deal for children in the Union Budget 2007-8 as well as in the Eleventh Plan.

We also take this opportunity to reiterate our appeal for more active political leadership on children’s issues, including the universalisation of ICDS.

JEAN DREZE, N.C.SAXENA, SHANTHA SINHA, ARUNA ROY, KAVITA SRIVASTAVA, HARSH MANDER, VANDANA PRASAD, ARUN GUPTA, ANNIE RAJA, VEENA SHATRUGNA AND SUDHA SUNDARARAMAN, New Delhi

Why this discrimination?

I work at Government College, Ropar, and was appointed Presiding Officer in the recent Punjab Assembly elections. My polling party number was 25 and it was a reserve party. We spent the whole day on February 12 at the polling material collection centre at Anandpur Sahib. We managed to spend the night and on Feb 13 we reported for duty at 8 a.m. sharp.

Surprisingly, the reserved polling parties have not been paid TA/DA for election duty whereas other polling parties who performed duty at the polling booths got it. I don’t see any rationale behind this discrimination. Why is the Election Commission/State Election Commission following this bias towards reserve parties? We were on poll duty irrespective of our reserved status. The authorities should be sympathetic towards us.

SUKHDEV SINGH MINHAS, Mohali

 

No concern

Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt’s statement that the Defence Ministry will either recommend to the Finance Ministry the release of the Fourth Pay Commission arrears or it will be referred to the Sixth Pay Commission for ratification if required will demoralise the defence personnel, ex-servicemen and youth, and those willing to join the defence forces. Sadly, there is no political will on the part of the government to help us.

Other political parties, the ex-servicemen cell of the Congress headed by K.P. Singh Deo have proved to be ineffective. No one is bothered about our plight and interested to redress our genuine grievances. That’s why, educated youth are having second thoughts about joining the defence services today.

Lt-Col H.R. SAINI (retd), Panchkula

Tax exemption

Rashmi Jotshi Sharotri’s letter “No tax exemption” (Feb 16) will help the cause of ex-servicemen of Himachal Pradesh, especially those living in Himachal’s border districts with Punjab. These districts are Kangra, Una, Chamba and Solan. There is no CSD Depot in Himachal and no advance medical institute where ex-servicemen can be referred to the ECH Clinic. Consequently, people are forced to visit Pathankot, Jalandhar and Chandigarh. Same is the case with CSD Canteen items. What happened to the CSD depots in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir? And why are there no depots in Himachal?

The illegal tax must go. The ex-servicemen must be provided exemption from the HP Toll Tax. This will be a welfare measure.

Major NANAK CHAND (retd), Jwalamukhi

Revenue stamps

Revenue stamps are sold at exorbitant rates at Dina Nagar in Pathankot district. The other day the stamp vendor charged me Rs 10 for six revenue stamps despite protests. Will the authorities concerned please look into this?

KANS RAJ, Pathankot

 






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