New Delhi: After the Planning Commission cut India’s education outlay due to a fiscal crunch, the government has now assured the human resource development (HRD) ministry that it will provide extra funding to meet the challenges of special schemes such as the Right to Education (RTE) law and the mid-day-meal scheme.
According to at least three HRD ministry officials, the school education budget was cut by 7%, or Rs.3,240 crore, and that for higher education by 13%, or Rs.1,900 crore.
Earlier, the ministry wrote to the finance ministry about the burden it will face due to the cap on subsidized cooking gas cylinders for its mid-day-meal scheme.
“We have received a letter from the finance ministry just a day back that we can utilize the fund laying for administrative work and in the coming fiscal, we will be compensated,” said one of the three ministry officials, all of whom requested anonymity.
The cap on gas cylinders has put an additional burden of Rs.653 crore on the mid-day-meal scheme aimed at providing food to government primary school students and is aimed at stemming dropout rates. The RTE law promises compulsory education for all students in the 6-14 age group.
“In the 12th Plan (2012-17), the government has promised to give the school education department some Rs.3,43,000 crore but it’s not adequate at all. The finance ministry has assured us that the shortfall will be compensated every year during every annual plan by bringing in fund lying surplus in some other departments,” the first official said.
Giving an example, ministry authorities said that while the RTE scheme needs more than Rs.40,000 crore every year, the combined allocation for the last two years has been around Rs.45,000 crore. “This is where we need more funding and the finance ministry now understands our concern,” said the second official.
Key flagship schemes and research grants for higher education should not be cut as this will affect the overall quality of education, said Narayanan Ramaswamy, partner and head, education practice, at consulting and auditing firm KPMG.
Ministry officials said that they are “really surprised to see cuts in education allocations” even though they have been making good use of the money in the last nine months. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), which is the vehicle for implementing RTE, has utilized 82% of funds, while the mid-day-meal scheme has utilized some 64%.
Mint reported on 3 January how the higher education expenditure cut would affect key schemes, including the low-cost Aakash tablets that aim to bridge the digital divide in the education system.
Meanwhile, the ministry has now asked autonomous bodies such as the Central Board of Secondary Education, the National Council of Education, Research and Training, the University Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education to promote value education and increase women’s security on campuses in the wake of the recent gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi.
“We will brief the PMO soon on this as they had forwarded us several petitions on the issue and the action we are taking on the campuses,” the first official said.