Mon, 15 Jul, 2019

Budget 2019 and the opportunity lost

Though the outlay for education has increased and is encouraging, it is the pattern of the spending that is worrisome

Story: Dr. | Manasvi | 07th February 2019, 03:33 Hrs

Dr. Manasvi M Kamat

The main takeaway of the new Union Budget was the massive allocation of Rs 1.38 lakh crore for 2018-2019 on health, education and social security. Out of the above figure, the allocation for education in 2019-2020 stands at Rs 93,848 crore as compared to Rs 85,010 in 2018-2019 registering a 10 percent increase. In comparison, the 2018-19 allocation for this sector was only 4 percent higher than the previous year’s outlay of Rs. 79685 crore in 2017-18 Budget.      

 The caveats of not doing so are many. It is believed that almost one-third the children enrolled in elementary will continue to drop out when they reach secondary level and another half at higher secondary level. 

This leaves only 20-25 percent of privileged few to have access to higher education, measured by what we call as the ‘Gross Enrollment Ratio’ or the GER. 

Out of the total allocation to education, school education gets 58 percent and the meagre rest goes to higher education. This projected budgetary allocation for Department of School Education and Literacy (DSEL) for 2019-20 translates as Rs. 54,959 crore, also registering a 10 percent increase from 2018-19 (Budget Estimate). 

Though the outlay for education has increased and is encouraging, it is the pattern of the spending that is worrisome. The funds for the teacher training component for instance declined by 87 percent over six years, from Rs 1,158 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 150 crore in 2019-20, indicating the low priority accorded.

It is said that 2019-20 budget allocation of Rs 37,572 crore in National Education Mission (NEM) from Rs 32,334 crore in RE 2018-19 will take care of a number of schemes under it including Saakshar Bharat programme, those under Directorate of Adult Education, National Literacy Mission Authority and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Though the increased outlay for the NEM is expected to address key concerns, the question is whether the amount allocated will be actually spent for the purpose it was allocated? 

Look for instance at this critical fact. The monthly accounts of expenditure released by Controller General of Accounts (CGA) till November 2018 shows that in the first seven months of the last year, DSEL could spend only 39 percent of its total budgetary allocation, ie Rs 50,000 crore from amount budgeted in 2018-19. 

In the previous year (November 2017) the utilisation rate was 65 percent, a 26 percentage point higher than the current year. Thus in the remainder part of this current year since November 2018 to March 2019, it would be difficult for DSEL to spend the remaining 61 percent and if even the department is able to spend a substantial amount of the remaining fund, there would be concerns regarding the quality of expenditure.

In spite of the PM reiterating that science and technology will facilitate his ‘New India-2022’ vision this doesn’t seem happening. The government has now proposed to abolish education cess and secondary and higher education cess on imported goods. This however would translate in lower resources in the hands of the government to spend on education. This has reflected in lower allocations to higher educational institutions as well. 

For instance, the budget outlay for the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) has seen a drastic decline of 59.9 per cent from last fiscal’s allocation from Rs 1,036 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 415.41 crore in 2019-20. The budget 2018 allocations was also less than the revised budget 2017 figures of Rs 1,068. 

The IITs have also seen a decline in their budget from Rs 6,326 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 6,223.02 crore this year. However, this is not the first time when there has been a cut in the budget outlay for the IITs as the top technical institution had seen a cut in the last fiscal from Rs 8,337.21 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 6,326 crore in 2018-19.

The budget outlay for the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISERs) has also seen a drop from Rs 689 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 660 crore in 2019-20. 

Apart from these educational Institutions, the statutory and regulatory bodies such as UGC and AICTE have also witnessed a decline. There has also been a decrease from Rs 4,722.75 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 4,600.66 in the budget outlay for the University Grants Commission (UGC). On the other hand, the outlay of All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has come down to Rs 466 crore this year as compared to Rs 485 in 2018-19.

On the issue of reservation, it was assured that the poor will be provided 25 percent additional seats in educational institutions so that it meets the 10% reservation for them in educational institutions and government jobs.

However no remarkable allocation for creating additional infrastructure to address the requirements of the additional 25 percent seats is noticed. 

On the positive side, it was announced that by 2022 every block with more than 50 per cent ST population will have Eklavya schools at par with Navodaya Vidyalayas. Government has announced to set up 24 new medical colleges and hospitals by upgrading district-level ones. 

The announcement of at least one medical college for three parliamentary constituencies and two new schools of planning and architecture including 18 more in IITs and NIITs along with announcement of 22nd AIIMS to be set up in Haryana brings in some cheer factor. 

The above good news seems too little as unfortunately for all of us in the education field, yet again and yet another government at the end of its tem failed to keep up their promise of allocation at least 6 percent of GDP for education.

Sadly yet again, Union Budget 2019-20 fails to give any boost to for the GER to expand further.

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