EDUCATION HAS got a higher outlay in the Punjab 2016-17 budget, with an increase of Rs 414 crore over last year, but the allocation for two flagship programmes — Sarva Shikhsa Abhiyaan (SSA) and Mid-Day Meal, has been cut by Rs 167 crore.
The education budget has increased from Rs 8,318 crore last year to Rs 8,732 crore this year.
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Last December, MHRD minister Smriti Irani announced change in the funding of SSA. The state’s contribution was increased 35 per cent to 40 per cent.
As per the education budget announced by Finance Minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa Tuesday, Rs 750 crore has been proposed for SSA this year. This is Rs 140 crore less than Rs 890 crore which was proposed in 2015-16 budget. It is the premiere flagship programme across the country providing classroom education to class 1 to 8 with its components including uniforms, infrastructure, teachers’ salaries, girl education, special children education etc.
Similarly, the proposed budget for mid-day meal has also been reduced from Rs 277 crore last year to Rs 250 crore this time. While several primary and middle government schools under SSA across Punjab are still without buildings, classrooms, playgrounds and even in unsafe buildings, the mid-day meal grants for buying ration and cylinders too arrive after months of backlog.
However, the ‘Kanya Health Care’ kits announced under ‘Swasth Kanya Yojna’ by FM has come as a silver lining in education budget under which girls from class 6 to 12 will be getting sanitary napkins every month. A sum of Rs 70 crore has been proposed for this scheme. “In backward areas, girls still use cloth or miss school due to lack of menstrual hygiene awareness. If they will get sanitary napkins free of cost, it will increase attendance in schools,” said a government teacher.
Under overall 414 increase in overall education budget, Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyaan (RMSA), the flagship programme for class higher secondary education (9 to 12) has been allocated Rs 180 crore this year compared to Rs 90 crore last year. Also, the vocational education budget has been increased from 20 crore last year to 100 crore and computer education from 310 crore to 410 crore. Rs 100 crore has been proposed for infrastructure in Adarsh and meritorious schools.
Speaking to The Indian Express, education minister Daljeet Singh Cheema said ‘proposed budget cut will not affect the schemes in any way.’
“Last year, 890 crore was proposed for SSA but actually released amount was Rs 600 crore. State’s share has been increased by 5% as per MHRD decision for SSA and mid day meals. Overall, education budget has been increased by 400 crore. It will be ensured that funds for SSA and mid day meal are released as required. The target is to get complete Rs 750 crore released for SSA as proposed,” he said.
Director General of School Education (DGSE) Punjab Pardeep Aggarwal said if there will be any shortage of funds for SSA or mid day meal, demand will be sent to center/state as required.