Education boost: Govt fails to make elementary sense

If one analyzes the fine print of the education budget, the finance minister's talk of " demographic dividend" is just big talk.

Increase in allocation to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)—the vehicle for implementing the Right to Education (RTE) Act—from Rs 15,000 crore to Rs 21,000 crore does not reveal the correct picture. Revised estimate for the SSA in 2010-11 had increased to Rs 19,000 crore after the RTE came into force. So, effectively, the increase is Rs 2,000 crore. Madhav Chavan of NGO Pratham said, "The overall increase in elementary education to Rs 29,000 crore from last year's Rs 26,000 crore is good enough only for inflation adjustment."

The bigger problem with elementary education allocation is the way the government has abdicated its responsibility. Nearly Rs 18,000 crore to elementary education comes not from gross budgetary support, but through Prathmik Shiksha Kosh—the non-lapsable fund where 2% education cess is collected.

Following protests from the HRD ministry, the mid-day meal scheme has got Rs 10,380 crore compared to last year's Rs 9,440 crore.

In higher education, institutions—mostly in poll-bound states—have got a one-time grant. These range from Rs 200 crore to IIT-Kharagpur to Rs 50 crore each to AMU centres in Bengal and Kerala and Rs 100 crore to Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University. For Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development, TN, and Madras School of Economics, it is Rs 20 crore.

Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University expects to start work on a Hindi dictionary with a grant of Rs 10 crore.

Pre-matric scholarship for SC/ST students had been in the works for a long time. The FM's announcement is a step in the right direction.
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