While education has been a priority for the nation in the past decade, in Maharashtra about 40% of the budget allocated for higher education was allowed to lapse during the Tenth Five Year Plan (2002 to 2007).
This is what a study conducted by the economics department of the Mumbai University for the Planning Commission found.
Headed by professor Abhay Pethe, the report is an overview of the economic indicators of Maharashtra.
The independent assessment was submitted to the Planning Commission last month as part of a mid-term appraisal of the Eleventh Five Year Plan.
The report states: “Given the small amounts available, this lapse of funds appears no less than a crime. Shortage of schemes or procedural delays — whatever the reason, this performance of Maharashtra is certainly not pardonable. This is more tragic at a time when there is a tremendous surge in expenditure on higher education at the central level. How much has a progressive state like Maharashtra been able to benefit from it.”
While the total budget amount for the duration of the 10th plan period was Rs5.84 crore, the amount spent was Rs3.49 crore.
“In Maharashtra, privatisation of education is at a much faster pace as result of which government educational institutions are suffering. There is negative perception of public education in the state and the government needs to not only utilise funds from the Centre but also add its own funds to enhance quality and change this perception,” said Bhalchandra Mungekar, former member of the planning commission and former vice chancellor of Mumbai University.
The situation improved in 2007-08 when for the first time the expenditure on higher education crossed the 1% mark in proportion to the state’s total planned expenditure of Rs194.22 crore.
In the same year, about 80% (Rs2.65 crore) of the higher education budget was spent.
Some of the initiatives taken by the state towards higher and technical education during the 11th period plan are that research and development (R&D) centres have been set up in emerging areas, 20 new industrial training institutes (ITIs) for women have started and a law university
in Aurangabad has been approved.
But while these initiatives are welcome, the report states that looking at past history Maharashtra is yet to demonstrate its ability to translate good intentions into actual outcomes in a swift and efficient manner.