Modi govt likely to slash school education budget by Rs 3,000 crore citing funds crunch

The Print | Kritika Sharma | Dec 09, 2019

A sum of Rs 56,536 crore was sanctioned to the school education department in 2019-20, from which the finance ministry is likely to cut Rs 3,000 crore.

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is likely to cut the school education budget for 2019-20 by Rs 3,000 crore on account of a “funds crunch”, ThePrint has learnt.

Highly-placed sources in the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry — which oversees education — said the Ministry of Finance had cited lack of funds as the reason behind the proposal.

A sum of Rs 56,536.63 crore was sanctioned to the school education department for 2019-20 financial year. The funds cut, the sources added, was discussed in a meeting between officials of the HRD and finance ministries two weeks ago.

“Finance ministry officials said they will have to reduce the budget for school education by Rs 3,000 crore,” said a ministry source.

HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, along with other officials, is now trying to pursue the finance ministry to provide the complete fund.

“The (HRD) ministry is pushing them (finance ministry) to release the full amount because the school education department has no other way of generating funds. Higher education department has things like HEFA (Higher Education Finance Agency) through which they can raise money, but school education (department) does not have any such means,” said another ministry source.

When asked about the proposed fund cut, the HRD Ministry’s official spokesperson told ThePrint, “it’s not true”.

But sources in the ministry told ThePrint that a decision in the matter is likely to be announced next week.

An email sent to the official spokesperson of the finance ministry, Rajesh Malhotra, remained unanswered until the time of publishing this report.

Likely to cripple several projects
According to HRD ministry officials, the proposed fund cut is likely to affect many projects.

“School education department needs funds to run its various schemes. The Kendriya Vidyalayas need money, the Navodaya Vidyalayas need money, many teachers have also not got their salaries,” said the second source quoted above.

“If Rs 3,000 crore is cut from the fund, we are not sure what will suffer, and, therefore, we are requesting the finance ministry to give us the full budget,” the source added.

Most of the funds of the school education department are used to run central government schemes like Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, which aims at “improving school effectiveness measured in terms of equal opportunities for schooling and equitable learning outcomes”.

What budget figures for the last 4 years show
Budget for the school education department has been increased by over Rs 9,000 crore over the last three years — from nearly Rs 46,000 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 56,536 crore in 2019-20.

In the last four years, the revised estimates have, however, remained either the same or increased only marginally.

The budget estimate is an allocation based on what a ministry is likely to require in a financial year, while the revised estimate is what the ministry ends up spending during that year.

In 2016-17, the budget estimate was Rs 43,554 crore, while the revised estimate was Rs 43,896 crore. In 2017-18, the budget estimate was Rs 46,356 crore and the revised estimate Rs 47,008 crore, and in 2018-19, the budget estimate was Rs 50,000 crore and the revised Rs 50,113 crore.