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Despite controversies, education gets a fillip

Though mired in bitter controversies that lead to agitations like on OBC quota in central educational institutions, the HRD ministry, was able to provide the much needed financial impetus to elementary, secondary, higher and technical education, writes Prasad Nichenametla.

india Updated: Feb 16, 2009 22:46 IST
Prasad Nichenametla

It was in 1950 that the first IIT in the country was set up in Kharagpur. And it took eight years before the next one came up in Bombay (1958). In all, the seven IITs came into being in over a span of 50 years. But in what can be termed as a quantum leap for the IITs and opportunity for students seeking world-class technical education, the government started six new IITs in just one single year — 2008-09.

Though mired in bitter controversies that lead to agitations like on OBC quota in central educational institutions, the ministry of human resources development, in the last five years, was able to provide the much needed financial impetus to elementary, secondary, higher and technical education.

Taking Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), a mission programme to provide quality elementary education to children in 6-14 year age group, allocations that were standing at Rs 2,732 crore in 2003-04 saw a multifold increase at Rs 13,100 in 2008-09 budget. Same with other programmes like mid-day meal, which has been extended to the upper primary classes last year. More than 11 crore children are availing the free meals daily at their schools.

With the relative success of SSA that saw out of school children drop to 45 lakh in 2008-09 from 1.35 crore in 2003-04, the ministry came out with Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan to focus on secondary education, so far neglected.

Though the OBC quota generated much heat, it has facilitated the central educational institutes (CEIs) like IITs, NITs and central universities to expand their facilities. One director of a CEI said, “Getting money from the Ministry is not a problem. In fact we were not able to spend the money already received under the OBC head.” The budget of 2008-09 allocated Rs 1,647 for all central technical institutes, to take care of quota and general expansion.