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Sunday, Dec 08, 2019

Time to wake up

Rs 72,000 cr is needed annually to implement the Right to Education Bill, which is three-fourths of our defence budget. But the Centre and states can’t decide on who’ll pay what to ensure no child remains out of school. Prasad Nichenametla reports.

india Updated: Aug 09, 2008 00:14 IST
Prasad Nichenametla
Prasad Nichenametla

The union cabinet on Friday put in cold storage a proposed law to make elementary education a legally enforceable right. The Right to Education Bill which was mooted way back in 2004 is again pushed back with the Cabinet deciding to refer the much debated bill to a Group of Ministers (GoM).

In the six years following the Constitution (86th Amendment) Act, 2002, entailing free and compulsory education to every child in the age group of 6 to 14 years, state and central government have not been able to reach an agreement on sharing the expenses.

“There is a question of how much the state should contribute, The GoM will work out the cost expenditure of the bill,” Minister for Science and Technology Kapil Sibal said after the cabinet meet.

The GoM, headed by the Minister of Human Resource Development Arjun Singh, is unlikely to arrive at a consensus before the monsoon session.

In fact financial implications of the Bill is what is keeping the government in a fix. A committee of Central Advisory Board on Education constituted in 2004 to suggest draft legislation has estimated (through NUEPA) that the entire provisions of the Bill, in its true sense, would have financial implications amounting to an average of Rs 72,678 crore per annum, or about 1.5 per cent of GDP over the six-year period and even in the most conservative scenario, amount to an average of Rs 53,467 crore per annum or about 1.1 per cent of GDP.

Taken aback by the mammoth money requirement, the government at one point wanted to just pass on a model bill to the states, asking them to implement an act on those lines. A high level committee was also constituted under Arjun Singh to break the jinx and set sail the bill. Now the Ministry has brought down the estimations drastically to accommodate the bill in the budget of the country.

The Bill from the beginning was a point of contention as it was pushing the primary responsibility of implementing the act on the States. The states on their part had expressed their inability to provide for the provisions of the Act. Recently the Ministry had expressed its willingness to contribute more generously for the Bill’s provisions.

"Taking into view the protest and inabilities expressed by the States that they cannot meet the financial implications of the Bill, we have now taken a decision to share the costs in a ratio agreeable to states and which would ease their burden also. Though there is no exact ratio worked out now, our aim is to provide all necessary help to the states in the implementation of the Act," a highly placed source in the Ministry said earlier.