Skip to main content

Gross 'injustice' to children: Rs 5000 cr cut in education budget; 15 lakh schools shut down

Counterview Desk 

More than 100 dignitaries, including educationists, academia, social activists, teachers’ union, civil society organisations (CSOs), various networks and people working on child rights, in a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman have sought reversal of reduction in allocation for education in the Union Budget 2021-22, even as demanding substantial increase in it.
Sent by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, and endorsed by Alliance for Right to ECD, Wada Na Todo Abhiyan, National Coalition for Education (NCE) India, Oxfam India, Save the Children India, CARE India, Campaign against Child Marriage, and the Center for Social Equity, the letter regrets that, instead of living up to expectations for a hefty rise in the provision in the budget, the budget provides for an amount of Rs 54,874 crore for school education as compared to Rs 59,845 crores in 2020-21 -- a cut of nearly Rs 5000 crore.
It says, the allocation for Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan targeting elementary and secondary education has been reduced from Rs 38,751 crore to Rs. 31,050 crore, a cut of Rs 7,701 crore; and the allocation for the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) -- the flagship and only programme of the Government of India for supporting the protection, health and education of children -- has been reduced from Rs 28,557 crore to Rs 21,005 crore.
According to the letter, “With the closure of 1.5 million schools, an overwhelming majority of the children going to school, especially from the poor and the marginalized families, have been deprived of schooling for a full year and have been pushed into labour force, house work and worse still, to child trafficking.”
Pointing out that in this situation, the girls have been “particularly hard hit, with pressure for marriage, increased domestic work, trafficking and violence”, the letter states, “Childline (children’s helpline) registered a 17% increase in distress calls relating to pressure for early marriage of girls in June and July 2020, as compared to 2019.”
“Further”, it adds, “With large scale migration of families, hundreds of thousands of children have been uprooted from their schools and communities. A sharp drop in the employment and incomes of a very large section of the population, has affected parents’ ability to spend on education.”
Quoting Unicef data, the letter says, the closure of schools has impacted 247 million children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools and 28 million getting pre-school education in anganwadi centres, which were also closed, 24 million learners from pre-primary to tertiary education risk not finding their way back to their schools in 2021 when they are expected to open. On top of this, it says, over 40 million children are chronically malnourished.
“According to a World Bank estimate, the learning loss caused by the Pandemic will cost India $400 billion in reduced earnings, an amount likely to be more if additional funds are not allocated to support public education”, it adds.
The signatories on the letter include Prof Muchkund Dubey, Former Foreign Secretary and President, Council for Social Development, New Delhi; Shantha Sinha, former chairperson, The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights; Prof R Govinda, former vice-chancellor National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration; Prof Praveen Jha, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Ambarish Rai, National Convener, RTE Forum; among others.

Text:

We, the undersigned members of civil society organisations, educationists, academics and people working for children’s right to education are deeply disappointed by the cut effected in the outlay for school education in the Union Budget, 2021-22, tabled in the Parliament on February 1, 2021. Given the pitiable condition of school education in the country and the shocks administered to it by the coronavirus pandemic, we were expecting a hefty rise in the provision in the budget for school education. This was essential for accomplishing the remaining tasks of implementing the RTE Act, for compensating for the loss suffered in 2020 and for bringing each of the children of India back to school in a safe and child-friendly environment.
Instead of living up to this expectation, the budget provides for an amount of Rs 54,874 crore for school education as compared to Rs 59,845 crore in the estimate for 2020-21 (a cut of nearly Rs 5,000 crore). The allocation for Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan targeting elementary and secondary education, has been reduced from Rs 38,751 crore in the budget estimate for 2020-21 to Rs 31,050 crore in the estimate for the year 2021-22 (a cut of Rs. 7,701 crores). The allocation for the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) -- the flagship and only programme of the Government for supporting the protection, health and education of children -- has been reduced from Rs 28,557 crore in 2020-21 (BE) to Rs 21,005 crores in 2021-22 (BE).
There were several pending urgent tasks relating to the implementation of the RTE Act, demanding the immediate attention of the Government through the provision of additional budgetary resources. These were: bringing to school an estimated 3.4 crores of children who were out of school. (NSSO data for 2017-18), putting in place the infrastructure mandated in the RTE Act, filling in the massive teacher vacancies, and providing the teachers, pre-service and in-service training.
The pandemic aggravated these problems and piled up new ones. There are many studies and reports of international agencies which show that the vulnerability of school going children has increased manifold during the period of the lockdown. 
With the closure of 1.5 million schools, an overwhelming majority of the children going to school, especially from the poor and the marginalized families, have been deprived of schooling for a full year and have been pushed into labour force, house work and worse still, to child trafficking. In this situation, the girls have been particularly hard hit, with pressure for marriage, increased domestic work, trafficking and violence. 
Childline (children’s helpline) registered a 17% increase in distress calls relating to pressure for early marriage of girls in June and July 2020, as compared to 2019 (a BBC report). Further, with large scale migration of families, hundreds of thousands of children have been uprooted from their schools and communities. A sharp drop in the employment and incomes of a very large section of the population, has affected parents’ ability to spend on education.
To cite a few figures, the closure of schools has impacted 247 million children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools and 28 million getting pre-school education in Anganwadi Centres which were also closed (UNICEF), 24 million learners from pre-primary to tertiary education risk not finding their way back to their schools in 2021 when they are expected to open (UNESCO). 
In India, over 40 million children are chronically malnourished, the pandemic has further exposed the fragility of the conditions of these children, (UNICEF) less by the virus itself, but much more by its indirect effect arising out of loss of employment and incomes. According to a World Bank estimate, the learning loss caused by the pandemic will cost India $400 billion in reduced earnings, an amount likely to be more if additional funds are not allocated to support public education.
The Right to Education (RTE) Forum, in its memorandum submitted during the course of the pre-budget consultation with the Finance Minister, emphasized that budgetary provisions had to be made to meet the challenges of getting every child back to school by improving the school infrastructure which had been in disuse for months, restoring hygiene with adequate water and toilet facilities, supporting measures for children who were in need of remedial classes to recover from learning loss due to being away from schools for months together, resuming the provision of mid-day meals which should now include breakfast, as recommended in the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, and which should be extended to cover children in secondary schools. It was underlined that if these measures were not adopted and budgetary provisions for these not made, the vast majority of the children of the Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalised communities & those living in poverty, of persons with disabilities and girls in each of these categories, would be left out of the educational stream and would not be able to enjoy their fundamental right to education.
Closure of schools has impacted 247 million school children schools and 28 million getting pre-school education
We are firmly of the view that vastly enhanced level of investment in the social sectors, particularly education will be of immense benefit to the economy and society. This will create by way of providing additional employment, the much needed additional demand to propel the economy on a higher growth trajectory. It will help in building social infrastructure necessary for ensuring sustainable growth. 

The gestation period for investment in social infrastructure is likely to be much shorter than that for building physical infrastructure which we concede, is equally important for accelerating and sustaining growth. Investment in education is the most effective way of realizing the objectives laid down in the Indian Constitution of equity, justice and democracy. The experience of most of the developed countries and a number of emerging economies bears testimony to this fact.
Budgetary provisions for education need to be enhanced substantially also to meet the requirements of the States which are principally responsible for education, particularly school education. The generally fragile and precarious financial position of the states and the local governments have been aggravated by the pandemic. Unlike the Centre, they cannot resort to deficit financing; nor can they fall back upon educational cess as a measure of raising additional revenues. 
It is, therefore, incumbent upon the Centre to compensate the states for the revenue loss suffered by them during the pandemic. The best way to do it would have been to directly transfer resources to financially vulnerable states and local governments. The first step towards this in India will be for the Centre to raise its share for financing centrally sponsored schemes.
India as a country and successive governments in power at the Centre have for a long time been reiterating the objective of achieving the public expenditure target of devoting 6 per cent of GDP to education. The reaffirmation of this objective in the NEP 2020 has given rise to the hope that at long last, this long pending target has a chance of being achieved. For this purpose, the Government should include in the budget for this year a clear fiscal roadmap leading to reaching the target within a specified time period, say five years.
We wish to reiterate that the cut made in the budgetary spending on education in the face of the dire need to substantially enhance it is a gross injustice to the children of our country, who have already suffered immensely. If the budget proposals are not revisited and the cuts are not reversed, these children will not be able to exercise their right to education and the nation will suffer in the long run because of the resultant accentuation of poverty, inequality and mass scale wastage of precious human resources.
We, therefore, urge you to reconsider the proposed budgetary allocation for education with a view to substantially revising it upwards and take the other measures outlined in this statement.
---
Click here for signatories

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.