Aiming to leverage India's youth power, the UPA-II government's first budget gives a huge thrust to higher and technical education and skill development programmes.
In the previous term, the UPA had focused on elementary education and increased the budgetary allocation by over four times from Rs 6,004 crore in 2004-05 to over Rs 27,000 crore in the 2008-09. The UPA's centerpiece was the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), under which they aimed to set up a primary school within 2 km of every habitat.
In 2008 itself, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had indicated the shift of focus towards higher education by announcing 16 new Central Univ-ersities, eight IITs and seven IIMs over the next five years.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukerjee set aside a total of Rs 44,528crore for the ministry of human resources development (HRD), which is Rs 13,000 crore more than what was announced in last year's Budget. As for higher education Mukherjee has earmarked Rs 15,429 crore, an increase of nearly Rs 5,000 crore. A further Rs 1,729 crore will be exclusively spent on new IITs and IIMs.
Mukerjee emphasized on quality even as he announced Rs 827 crore for establishing 16 Central Universities as announced last year, apart from the Rs 900 crore for Mission in Education to provide Internet connection to students and teachers and certification of knowledge acquired by learners through formal and non-formal systems. The Skill Development Mission has got Rs 495 crore to upgrade polytechnics.
Two per cent of most talented students entering higher education will be covered under a new scholarship scheme and those who fail to join formal higher education can gain from upgradation of polytechics under Skill Development Mission, for which Rs 495 crore has been provided.
This massive stimulus will help HRD minister Kapil Sibal to implement his plan of doubling Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) from 12 per cent to 24 per cent by 2020.
“Expansion of higher education with the help of private partners is good news but the government should ensure quality,” said Prof Yash Pal, former UGC chairperson.