The strongly worded opposition of Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh on lower allocation for education appears to have stirred the hornet’s nest. In the revised allocation, funds for the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) and higher education has been increased substantially, thanks to Finance Ministry’s proposal to levy 1 per cent additional education cess.
According to the government sources, the finance ministry has proposed to increase allocation for the SSA from Rs 8,800 crore to about Rs 10,500 crore and meet the expenses to implement 27 per cent OBC reservation in the institutes of higher education as per the Moily committee recommendations. Earlier, the finance ministry had allocated only about 80 per cent of what Moily committee had recommended.
The reduced plan allocation for the HRD ministry had evoked strong reaction from Singh, who demanded Rs 15,000 crore for the SSA and the Kasturba Bal Vidalaya Scheme. The Rs 10,500-crore allocation would still be lower than the allocation for the current financial year that was Rs 11,000 crore.
However, the issue was sorted out with the Finance Ministry proposing 1 per cent additional cess, which the HRD ministry agreed to. The additional money from education cess will also be utilised for empowerment of girl child through the National Merit Scholarship Scheme, which would get Rs 120 crore, and Kasturba Bal Vidalaya Schemes. Other weaker sections like Scheduled Castes would get 1,500 new Navodaya Vidalayas in the next financial year, it has been proposed. The cess would also mean adequate money for opening three new IITs, two IIMs, two Schools of Planning and Architecture and two new Indian Institutes of Education Research and Science.
Officials said the decision on Centre-state share on the SSA was yet to be taken. While the finance ministry wants the Centre and the states to equally share the burden, the HRD ministry is insisting that the Centre bear 75 per cent of the cost. Officials say the states have surplus funds to the tune of Rs 47,000 crore, which should be utilised for the SSA. They also claim that extra funding to states for the next financial year can also be put in for implementing the SSA.
Officials term the revision as a moral victory for Arjun Singh as allocation for no other ministry has been hiked as done for the HRD ministry — about 50 per cent increase in allocation as compared to financial year 2006-07.