Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dr. JP shows a way for availing of Central funds for education

Andhra Pradesh, which has the worst record in literacy and school education among all the four Southern States and Maharashtra and Gujarat, is losing about Rs. 800 – 1000 crore of Central funds for education because of its failure to release its share.

Drawing Chief Minister K. Rosaiah’s attention to the “shocking example of bad management of resources,” Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan said in a letter, “there cannot be a greater abdication of responsibility, and a graver injustice to the poor.”

Apparently, Dr. JP said, “the Government has no will or capacity to utilize money available to improve education and eliminate poverty by helping people to stand on their own feet.”

Dr. JP highlighted the paradox of Andhra Pradesh spending the largest amount among all States in India towards fee reimbursement and scholarships in higher education but not finding the money to meet State’s 40% share of Centrally-sponsored schemes for school education.

Andhra Pradesh allocated Rs.2300 crore in the 2010-11 budget towards fee reimbursement and scholarships in higher education. There is still unmet demand to the tune of Rs.1190 crore. If the total demand is to be met, it will need about Rs.3500 crore in 2010-11. With the imminent increase in tuition fee for engineering education, the burden may go up to Rs.4000 crore.

At the same time, the State is not able to release its share of expenditure in critical Centrally-sponsored schemes like Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rajiv Gandhi Madhyamika Siksh Abhiyan (RMSA). For instance, in 2009-10 against Rs.1100 crore projected program under SSA meant for primary schools (from Class 1 to Class 8), the State could utilize only Rs.425 crore. Similarly, this year the budget allocation under RMSA meant for high schools and junior colleges is about Rs.700 crore. But by current indications, the State will not be able to utilize more than Rs.150 – 200 core.

Dr. JP did not stop with taking exception to the Government’s skewed priorities. He suggested that the fee reimbursement scheme be redesigned to meet the full, genuine demand from all eligible, poor families but eliminate the rich availing of the facility. The Government should facilitate education loans to all poor students and come forward with a scheme to subsidize interest payable by students. Then the burden on the State will be only of the order of Rs 300 crore – 500 crore and yet all the deserving students can be covered.

“The money so saved can be utilized as State’s share of SSA and RMSA. The State will thus get an additional Rs.1000 crore from the Government of India for education for the poor. Both SSA and RMSA can then be implemented in full measure.”

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