Union Budget 2021-22 Has Successfully Failed Aspirations

The budget is largely laced with cuts with only a few privileged recipients.

The one expectation that the education budget 2021-22 has not failed to fail is failing the anticipations and aspirations of students, teachers and parents. Standing at a shameful 2.7% of the Total Budget, this embarrassing allocation stares us in the face, wondering exactly how the Government of India is going to achieve its primary objective of ‘Infrastructure Development’, by cutting back on education, research and training. 

Is it not quite clear to the GOI that only an educated populace can steer a nation towards ethical advancement, social and cultural advancement, medical and technological advancement? The education budget should have received the importance and respect it deserves, in the larger interest of the nations all round growth and development, which it certainly has not.    

The total budget 2021-22 is Rs 34,83,236 crore. Out of this, allocation towards the Education Sector stands at a shameful Rs 93224.31 crore only. In addition to this, there is also a 6% drop from what was previously allocated in the year 2020-21, which stood at Rs 99311 crore (before revision). 

Department of School Education and Literacy has been allocated Rs 54873.66 crores and Department of Higher Education has been allocated Rs 38325.15 crore. 

The Budget document presents an estimated sum of not only Expenditure but also that of Receipts, Fiscal Deficit (FD), Revenue Deficit (RD), and the Primary Deficit (PD) of the Government of India, as per The Budget at a Glance Document 2021-22, Union Budget Website, Ministry of Finance.

Where will this money come from (Rs 34,83,236 crore)? 

Corporation Tax (13%), Income Tax (14%), Customs (3%), Union Excise Duties (8%), Goods & Service Tax (15%), Non-Tax Revenue (6%), Non-Debt Capital Receipts (5%) and Borrowings & Other Liabilities (36%). 

Where will this money go (Rs 34,83,236 crores)?

Centrally Sponsored Schemes (9%), Central Sector Scheme (13%), Interest Payments (20%), Defence (8%), Subsidies (9%), Finance Commission and Other Transfers (10%), States Shares of Taxes and Duties (16%), Pensions (5%) and Other Expenditure (10%).

Some increments

The budget is largely laced with cuts with only a few privileged recipients. The budget allocation for the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) has been increased from Rs 5516 crore to Rs 6800 crore. 

Similarly, the budget allocation to Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) has also been increased by Rs 500 crore. The mid-day meal scheme saw an increment of Rs 500 crore. The Department of Higher Education which has been allocated Rs 38350.65 crore has a marginal increase towards ‘Digital India E-learning’ from Rs 444.00 crore in 2020-21 to Rs 645.61 crore in 2021-22, which will certainly fail to meet the growing digital needs of Indian students.

Some strange and striking allocations

Rs 1 crore allocation towards Scheme for Incentive to Girl Child for Secondary Education and Rs 1 crore allocation for Operation Digital Board (ODB) which don’t seem to serve any meaningful purpose and therefore raise doubts. Another noteworthy allocation is under the larger head of ‘Teacher Training and Adult Education’. 

This section has two subdivisions, namely Padhna Likhna Abhiyan and Appointment of Language Teachers. Strangely Appointment of Language Teachers has zero allocation and that under Padhna Likhna Abhiyan has Rs 250 crores allocation. There is no allocation towards teacher training although it is jointly referred to as Teacher Training and Adult Education but the allocation is only towards Adult Education. Last but not the least, there is a reduction in ‘Research and Innovation’ by almost Rs 70 crore.

Support to ailing organizations continues

It will be interesting to track the performance of the ailing National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), which is expected to receive funds under two separate heads, one of Rs 500 crore under the ‘Other Central Sector Expenditure’ and the other of Rs 495 crore under the head of ‘Investment in Public Enterprises’. 

A total of close to Rs 1000 crore, which is largely to sustain this decaying organization, consumed in administrative salaries, corruption and office overheads. Similarly, in the Higher Education Department budget allocation to UGC and AICTE remain intact at Rs 4693.20 crore and Rs 416 crore respectively, when compared to the year 2020-21. 

Taking into account changing trends in education much more expenditure allocation was required to be made on Information Communication Technology training and implementation, building and strengthening digital infrastructure, physical infrastructure improvements, building special needs facilities for students, skills building and research based higher education, on world class science laboratories, libraries and knowledge banks.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused not only a paradigm shift in learning and teaching methodologies but also in the physical infrastructural arrangement of educational spaces. Therefore, the education budget should have taken into account any and all costs caused as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including vaccination costs, to ensure continuity in education for the students. 

With this kind of attitude towards education, training and research, with the backlog of previous education commitments, with the responsibilities of the RTE looming over its head and the unfulfilled objectives of NEP 2020, it appears that India is far from receiving the much-needed thrust in the education sector. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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