Siba Sankar Mohanty of the Wada Na Todo Abhiyan recently wrote about the failure of the UPA government to deliver on its promise of increased quality expenditure in the social sector, in the budget of 2010-11

The Finance Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee said, “The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 creates a framework for legal entitlements for

all children in the age group of 6 to 14 years to education of good quality, based on principles of equity and non-discrimination. In recent years, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has made significant contribution in improving enrolment and infrastructure for elementary education. About 98 per cent of habitations are now covered by primary schools. I propose to increase the plan allocation for school education from Rs.26800 crore in 2009-10 to Rs.31036 crore in 2010-11. In addition, States will have access to Rs.3675 crore for elementary education under the Thirteenth Finance Commission grants for 2010-11.”

We must note that revised estimates for the department of School Education and Literacy for the year 2009-10 are significantly lower than the allocations made last year. There has been under-utilization of resources available for strengthening of teacher’s training institutions, implementation of Mid Day Meal Programme, SSA related expenditures, under spending in total secondary and adult education. Mohanty explains that planned allocations in these heads failed to take place, leading to under spending of around four thousand crore rupees between budgeted estimate and real estimate of 2009-10. In the case of higher education as well, there has been an element of under spending of approximately one thousand crore rupees indicated by a decline in the revised estimates vis-a-vis budget estimates of the year 2009-10.

Interestingly, the government has also reduced its allocation in absolute terms in case of medical education, training and research leaving the space to private interests to enter into the field of medical education.

A similar decline in absolute terms is noticed in budgetary allocations for National Disease Control Programmes as well as Contraception. While such apathy towards education and health in the Union Budget 2010-11 is deplorable, the recent recommendations of the Thirteenth Finance Commission released a couple of days back vigorously promotes a paradigm of restrained government expenditure in the name of fiscal prudence.

All in all, what does this say about a government’s commitment to delivering quality education and health care to all its citizens?

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