New Delhi: Seen as a budget to please the middle class and farmers ahead of the general elections, the Interim Budget 2019-20 holds no surprises for the educationists as education is almost absent from the major announcements in the ‘sops’ opera.
They feel that ‘education is never a poll issue’ and hence gets pushed aside.
For the middle class, the government has raised the income tax exemption limit to Rs 5 lakh, the government has given sops to farmers, which is Rs 6,000 per annum direct cash transfer under a new scheme. Cow Commission has been announced as well but no major announcement for education by the government save for the mention that “the allocation for National Education Mission is being increased from Rs 32,334 crore in RE 2018-19 to Rs 38,572 crore in BE 2019-20”.
The government has proposed 10% reservation for economically weaker sections (EWS) in public institutes and has also asked the higher education institutes to increase the seats by 25% so that the existing reservation policy that benefits SC/ST/OBC is not disturbed. The government has also asked them to provide information and data on their fund requirements for infrastructure.
Calling the budget allocation for the education sector “phenomenal”, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar said, "There is a Rs 10,000 crore net increase which makes it Rs 95,000 crore. The Budget allocation for education sector Human Resource Development is phenomenal."
He said the funds are available as loan under Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) to the government grant. "Under HEFA, Rs 30,000 crore will be raised this year and the total budget outlay on education will be Rs 1,25,000 crore, which is exactly the double of 2014. We are spending more in innovation, research and school education. It satisfies everybody. It is 4.5 per cent of the GDP."
Prof R Govinda, who is former Vice Chancellor of National University of Educational Planning and Administration, said, “I was not expecting any major announcement in the budget. There are areas where they offered big sops – like farmers and the middle class but the education has been missed. This shows that for election purposes, education is not an important issue.”
On the other hand, Rajib Ray, academician Delhi University, said that he would reserve his judgment till he sees the fine print. “It is very clear education is not a priority, even in the last budget, there was nothing much for education. We will look into the details,” he said.
The analysis of last budget as made by Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability said that the “Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) which is the nodal ministry for education, has been allocated Rs 85,010 crore in 2018-19 (BE), a seven percent increase from the previous year’s allocation. Though the education budget has increased in absolute terms, its share in total government expenditure is continuously decreasing.”
The Centre pointed out in their report “Of Hits and Misses” of Union Budget 2018-19 that a similar picture is observed when the education budget is compared with the country’s GDP. This reduced priority is also highlighted in Economic Survey 2017-18. The survey said “of the 6.6 percent of GDP on social sector, 2.7 percent goes to education in 2017-18, down from 3.1 percent in 2013-14”. Though it has attributed this reduction to limited fiscal space to increase expenditure on critical social infrastructure, a state-level analysis by CBGA shows that during the first four years of the Fourteenth Finance Commission period (which ends in 2019-20) states have actually increased their expenditure on the social sector including education.