Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Right to Education?: Rs 25,620 crore Central funds for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan remain unutilized in 2014-15

By Our Representative
The Parliamentary Standing Committee for the Ministry Human Resource Development in its recent report submitted to the Rajya Sabha has expressed serious concern over the "declining trend" in budgetary allocations by the Government of India for education over the last few years. The report finds that the cut for the year 2015-16 is particularly drastic, leading to the committee raising an alarm.
The data in the report show in the year 2014-15, the Government of India allocated Rs 50,000 crore, but it could spend just Rs 24,380 crore, with a whopping Rs 25,620 crore remaining unspent for its flagship programme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSY), meant implement right to education (RTE) and universalize primary education. The amount remaing unspent in the earlier two years was Rs 21,252 core in 2013-14 and Rs 16,224 crore in 2012-13.
Revealing this, Kiran Bhatty, a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, in an analysis has qualified the report as "nothing short of eye-popping", with the committee expressing "grave apprehension about the cuts in education funding", wondering, whether the Government of India would pass on the buck on states for under-utilization of SSY funds.
The committee, chaired by the BJP’s Satyanarayan Jaitya, says, it is "worried about the pace as well as scale of the on-going schemes", adding, "Picture about the time and amount as well as manner in which gaps are to be filled by the states is not clear. They might take quite a while before they are able to finalise/priorities their activities."
It committee also says it is "worried" about the future of monitoring implementation of the SSA following the the "replacement" of the Planning Commission, which was an intermediary agency between the Centre and states and also acted as monitoring agency, with Niti Ayog.
It says, "It is not clear what monitoring mechanism of the centrally sponsored or central sector schemes would be put in place."
In this framework, it tells the HRD ministry that is concerned "about the future of important schemes like SSA [Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan], MDM [mid-day meals] etc.", strongly recommending the Ministry of Finance to "earmark some funds for these schemes to that they do not come to a halt."
The committee further says, "Many States/UTs are not in position to make even 35 percent contributions towards the implementation of RTE/SSA. Now that there has been a drastic cut in the central funding for the programme it would be more difficult for the states to contribute enhanced share towards this initiative."
Bhatty comments, "What is significant is that the committee doesn’t share the common perspective that the problem in education is not about 'shortage of funds', but about the 'capacity to spend'. Instead, it bemoans the fact that low fund allocation combined with low utilisation is having an impact on the provision of services, especially to children from socio-economically backwards regions and groups."
He adds, "Asking the MHRD to 'speedily' solve this problem is unlikely to result in a solution. We are stuck in a vicious cycle of low fund allocations and low utilisation, which requires much stronger political will to break out of."

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