Education benefits from last year's cess
The education sector was on February 28 promised a 31.5 per cent increase in allocation by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in the budget for the coming fiscal.
Part of this increase is courtesy the two per cent education cess that was announced by the Government in 2004 to supplement budgetary support for basic education.
Besides the increase in allocation, Mr. Chidambaram announced a special grant of Rs. 300 crore to mark the 150th year of the modern university system. With three universities — the University of Calcutta, the University of Mumbai and the University of Madras — entering their 150th year this year, Mr. Chidambaram proposed a grant of Rs. 50 crore to each for a specified research department or research programme. In addition, he plans to make another grant of equal amount to each at the close of the year.
While the special grant for the three universities came as a bonus for the Human Resource Development Ministry, it also earned plaudits from the Finance Minister for the "remarkable progress" made by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in terms of new schools, additional classrooms and teachers. Referring to two independent surveys showing 93 per cent of children in the six to 14 age group in school and a one crore drop in the number of out-of-school children, the Finance Minister recognised this "good performance" with an increase in outlay for SSA from Rs. 7,156 crore to Rs. 10,041 crore in 2006-07.
The upcoming fiscal will also see money collected from the education cess being put to use for the first time. The estimated receipts of Rs. 8,746 crore for the year 2006-07 will be transferred to the Prarambhik Shiksha Kosh — set up in November last as a dedicated non-lapsable fund to receive the proceeds of the cess — for funding the SSA and the Mid-day Meal Scheme (MDM).
With close to Rs. 11,000 crore in its kitty, the SSA — a mission-mode programme to universalise elementary education by the turn of the decade — walked away with a lion's share of the Rs. 17,128 crore allocation for elementary education.
In fact, the SSA has got the very amount sought for it by the Human Resrource Development Ministry.
This is in sharp contrast to the MDM — this programme got just a little over half of what it sought. As against the demand for Rs. 8,000 crore, the programme has been sanctioned Rs. 4,813 crore. Besides, total allocation for the Integrated Child Development Services scheme has been increased to Rs. 4,087 crore from Rs. 3,315 crore.