Massive budget cuts in the education sector in the 2015-16 Budget got activists and NGOs working in the sector worried. The outlay for programmes such as the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme, National Nutrition Mission, Rashtriya Madhayamik Shiksha Abhiyaan (RMSA) and mid-day meal scheme have seen significant cuts.
The allocation for ICDS Scheme has been reduced from Rs 18,195 crore in 2014-15 budget estimates to Rs 8,335.8 crore in 2015-16 budget estimates.
Similarly, the allocation for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has been reduced from Rs 27,758 crore to Rs 22,000 crore, mid-day meal scheme Rs 13,215 crore to Rs 9,236 crore and the allocation for RMSA has been reduced from Rs 5,000 crore to Rs 3,565 crore.
“There has been a 29% cut in the budget for children this year. It now stands at an abysmal 3% of the entire budget,” said Enakshi Ganguly, of HAQ: Centre for Child Rights.
“All flagship programmes of the government like SSA, mid-day meals, ICDS, and health related schemes, as well as allocations to the key ministries that implement them, stand severely cut,” she added.
Activists also debunked the government’s theory that more funds would be made available to states to invest in these schemes after devolution.
“The Union government’s expectation that state governments will re-prioritise their budget and compensate for the cut in Budget allocation for these programmes seems unrealistic because the states are being given more autonomy in their spending but their overall resource envelope is not increasing much,” said Subrat Das, executive director of the centre for budget and governance accountability.