The Centre has decided to slash its share of funds in about 18 social sector schemes including flagship education programme Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in a cutback that has been criticised by states.
The central government and states would contribute equally for programmes such as SSA, Rashtriya Uchchtar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), a departure from the previous 65%-35% formula.
Sources said the department of economic affairs in a recent letter directed the human resource development (HRD) ministry’s finance wing to not release more than 50% of the budget for three of its centrally-sponsored schemes (CSS).
While SSA is aimed at universalising elementary school education under the Right to Education Act, RUSA and RMSA are aimed at improving the quality of higher and secondary education respectively.
The move follows recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission (FFC) that the Centre should share 42% of its net tax revenue with states as untied funds during the five-year period starting in 2015-16, up from the previous 32%.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi set up a Niti Aayog sub-group this year headed by Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to curtail the number of schemes meant to implement national priorities.
The sub-group recommended that the Centre’s share in the CSS should not be less than 50% of the total expenditure and the share of flexi-funds should be increased to 25% from the existing 10%.
In its budget announcement for 2015-16, the government had sharply cut allocations for the three centrally-sponsored schemes, signalling a revision in the Centre-state ratio of funding.
The argument in favour of revising the Centre’s share is that against the backdrop of higher devolution of funds to the states they should pay more for funding such schemes.
However state governments have panned the Centre’s proposal, saying it would leave them with a huge financial burden.
“The state is being deprived of its rights,” Ashish Banerjee, West Bengal’s minister of state for education, told HT.
(With inputs from state bureaus)