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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Dec 2014
Amid budget cuts, India's schools to stay afloat
Charu Sudan Kasturi, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 01, 2013
First Published: 23:27 IST(1/3/2013)
Last Updated: 23:31 IST(1/3/2013)

India's 3.5 crore taxpayers will keep the country's massive schooling system afloat this year despite unprecedented education budget cuts, because of increased collections through the dedicated education cess levied on their income tax.

Faced with the slowest rate of economic growth in a decade, finance minister P Chidambaram on Thursday slashed the government's budgetary allocations for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the flagship programme aimed at sending every child to primary school, for the first time since the programme was launched in 2001.

But a Rs. 2759 cr increase in the amount collected through the 2% elementary education cess levied on all income tax has helped bridge the reduced amount, mitigating the effects of cuts that could otherwise have significantly hurt schools already struggling amid rising prices.

Thanks to the cess, the total amount promised to the SSA in 2013-14 is Rs. 24,532 cr compared to Rs. 23, 036 cr in the financial year just concluding. Tax payers also shell out an additional 1% cess for secondary and higher education.

"The elementary education cess has saved us," a senior official and close adviser to Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia told HT on Friday.

"In 2013-14, more than ever before, it will be the direct contribution to the education cess from taxpayers that will hold up the country's schools and children."

The SSA and the Mid-day meal (MDM) - the world's largest school lunch programme - are directly believed responsible for hauling up India's elementary education enrolment from about 70% at the turn of the century to over 95% today. The MDM feeds over 100 million children daily.

Regular substantial hikes in the budgetary allocations for the SSA and the MDM during both the NDA years and under the two UPA terms meant that the two programmes had budgetary allocations of Rs. 8293 cr and Rs. 3708 cr respectively, in 2012-13.

But with the GDP braking to a 5% growth rate, the lowest since 2003, and a bloating fiscal deficit threatening to pull down India's investment ratings, Chidambaram Thursday cut the government's promised budgetary allocation for the SSA from Rs. 8293 cr in February 2012 to Rs. 8079 cr for the coming year.

The cap on subsidized LPG cylinders and persistent inflation, have together in recent months already pushed government schools to the brink. The human resource development (HRD) ministry has on multiple occasions asked - in futility -- the petroleum ministry to lift the LPG cap for schools.

Instead, it is the education cess that has come to the rescue of India's schooling system.

The estimated amount collected through the 2% cess - placed under a dedicated fund called the Prarambhik Shiksha Kosh (PSK) - that is promised for 2013-14 is Rs. 24,429 cr, up from Rs. 21,670 cr.

The amounts collected through the cess in the PSK - set up by the UPA in 2004 - can only be used for the SSA and MDM schemes.


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Highlights: Budget 2013  »

  • Expect higher revenue next year: Chidambaram
  • Unclear what the expense on food subsidies be at this stage: Chidambaram
  • Fuel subsidy likely to be lower this year: Chidambaram
  • Immediate goal is to achieve growth rate of 6%: Chidambaram
  • We have to be patient and wait for the economy to pick up: Chidambaram
  • We have not put impossible burdens on people: Chidambaram
  • The only way to contain current account deficit is to increase exports: Chidambaram
  • Confident that RBI will do it's part: Chidambaram
  • Economy is challenged in a number of ways: Chidambaram
  • This is a lollypop election budget: CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta
  • Budget has ignored SC/ST: Mayawati
  • Budget will only benefit industrialists, not common man: Mayawati
  • Budget will give impetus to Bihar's demand for special status: Nitish Kumar
  • FM has taken important steps to reverse pessimistic mood with regard to our economy: PM
  • There is need to convert challenges into opportunities: PM
  • The Finance Minister has done a commendable job: PM
  • Direct Benefit Transfer scheme to be rolled out
  • Ships and vessels exempted from excise duty
  • Direct tax code to be introduced in budget session of the Parliament
  • Set-top box import duty hiked
  • Gold duty limit raised to Rs. 50,000 for men; Rs. 1 lakh for women
  • 100% customs duty on luxury cars
  • Increase in import duty on high end bikes from 75% to 100%
  • 6% duty on mobile phones worth more than Rs. 2000
  • Excise duty on cigarette, cigar and cheeroot increased by 18%
  • Import duty on raw silk hiked to 15%
  • Luxury imported items to cost more
  • Donations to National Children's fund will be eligible for 100% tax deduction
  • No plans to revise direct taxes
  • No change in customs and excise duty
  • Tax credit of Rs. 2000 for those with income upto Rs. 5 lakh
  • Education cess at 3%
  • donations to be tax free
  • Surcharge of 10% on individuals, companies whose income is above Rs. 1 crore per year
  • No revision in tax slabs
  • Planned expenditure to be 33% of total expenditure
  • Rs. 1,000 crore allocated to women safety fund
  • Defence budget allocation increased to Rs. 2 lakh crore
  • Insurance and pension funds can now directly invest in debt funds
  • Domestic workers, Anganwadi workers, others to get group insurance
  • 13 public sector banks to get Rs. 14,000 crore
  • Propose to provide Rs. 14,000 cr for capital infusion in public sector banks
  • Inflation indexed bonds and NSCs to be introduced
  • JNNURM is being continued in the 12th Plan; Rs. 14,873 cr to be provided to the Mission
  • Rs. 33,000 crore to be allocated to MNREGA
  • Rs. 6000 crore for rural housing fund, Rs. 2000 cr for urban housing fund
  • Two new ports to be built in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh
  • All towns having population of 10,000 to get LIC office
  • Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna to be extended to rickshaw pullers and rag pickers
  • List of eligible securities will be enlarged: Chidambaram
  • SEBI to simplify procedures for entry of foreign portfolio investors in India: Chidambaram
  • India's first all-women public sector bank to be set up
  • All public sector bank branches to have ATMs
  • Focus on modernisation of powerloom sector
  • Propose to continue with the technology upgradation, funds scheme for textile sector: Chidambaram
  • Rs. 1650 cr allocated for AIIMS like institutes
  • Natural gas pricing policy will be reviewed: Chidambaram
  • Person taking home loan for the first time to get tax cut of Rs. 1 lakh
  • Regulatory authority to be set up for road sector
  • Rs. 17,700 crore to be allocated for Integrated Child Development Scheme
  • Rs. 5000 cr allocated to NABARD
  • Income level of Rajiv Gandhi equity schemes increased by Rs. 2 lakh
  • Rs. 80, 194 crore allocated for rural development: Chidambaram
  • Rs. 25,000 cr to be raised through tax free bonds: Chidambaram
  • Rs. 10,000 crore for food security bill promised by UPA: Chidambaram
  • Infrastructure debt fund to be encouraged: Chidambaram
  • Rs. 37,330 cr allocated to ministry of health and family welfare: Chidambaram
  • Rs. 41,000 allocated for scheduled caste welfare: Chidambaram
  • Rs. 27,49 cr to be allocated to the agriculture ministry: Chidambaram
  • Plan expenditure in 12th Five Year Plan revised to Rs. 14,30,825 cr or 96% of budgeted expenditure
  • Scholarships for students from SC/ST, minority communities: Chidambaram
  • Rs. 110 cr to be allocated to department of disability: Chidambaram
  • Increased allocation for safe drinking water and sanitation: Chidambaram
  • Increased allocation for mid-day meal schemes: Chidambaram
  • Rs. 65,000 cr allocation for education schemes: Chidambaram
  • Rs. 110 cr to be allocated to department of disability: Chidambaram
  • Need $ 75 billion to bridge current account deficit: Chidambaram
  • 2013-14 budget has sub-plans for SC, ST, youth and women: Chidambaram
  • Foreign investment imperative for growth: Chidambaram
  • Our economy has slowed down after 2010: Chidambaram
  • No choice but to cut spendings to control inflation: Chidambaram
  • China and Indonesia are growing faster than India: Chidambaram
  • Getting back to 8% growth is a challenge for country: Chidambaram
  • Our goal is higher growth: Chidambaram
  • Between 2004-2008 and again in 2009-10, 2010-11 the growth rate was over 8%: Chidambaram
  • P Chidambaram begins budget address in Lok Sabha
  • Cabinet endorses Union Budget 2013-14, to be presented in Parliament shortly.
  • Finance minister P Chidambaram reaches North Block.
  • Chidambaram set to present India's 82nd national budget.
  • Today's Union Budget will be Chidambaram's eighth personal exercise.
  • It's two short of the record of 10 set by former PM Morarji Desai.
  • Since Independence, the country has seen a total of 25 ministers hold the finance portfolio.
  • India has also seen budgets - 65 normal annual budgets, 12 interim budgets and four mini-budgets.
  • Morarji Desai presented eight normal and two interim budgets.
  • Thursday will see Chidambaram equal the eight-budget track record of Pranab Mukherjee.
  • Chidambaram will surpass Yashwant Sinha, YB Chavan and CD Deshmukh who all presented seven budgets each.
  • PM Manmohan Singh and TT Krishnamachari have presented six budgets each.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi have presented one budget each.
  • Sensex closed up more than half a percent a day before the union budget 2013-14
  • It will be the eighth such personal exercise for him
  • Chidambaram set to present India's 82nd national budget in Lok Sabha

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