Updated: February 2, 2020 10:14:27 am
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposed to increase Budget allocation for higher education by only Rs 1,149 crore even as institutions across the country are increasing fees to deal with funds shortage.
Sitharaman allocated Rs 99,300 crore for education — a hike of 4.6 per cent over Rs 94,855 crore last year. Of this, Rs 39,466 crore is set aside for higher education and Rs 59,845 crore for school education. The biggest chunk of the increase — Rs 3,308 crore — has gone to school education, leaving higher education with an additional Rs 1,149 crore.
Scholarships and financial aid for students in higher school education has seen little increase. The budget for interest subsidy scheme (providing interest subsidy during the moratorium period on educational loans taken by students with family income of less than Rs 4.5 lakh per annum) and Prime Minister’s Research Fellowship remain unchanged at Rs 1,900 crore and Rs 50 crore, respectively. Overall allocation for student financial aid is Rs 2,316 crore, as opposed to Rs 2,306 crore last year.
The research and innovation head has faced a 50-per cent cut compared to the budget announcement of 2019-20 — from Rs 608.87 crore to Rs 307 crore. No money has been allocated for the Ucchatar Avishkar Abhiyan this year, a scheme launched by the NDA-2 government to promote industry-specific research in educational institutions.
According to sources in the ministry, the significant cut under the research and innovation head was on account of poor utilisation of funds last year. As reported by The Indian Express on Thursday, only 25 per cent of Rs 608 crore was spent by the higher education department by December 2019.
The Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), a scheme for higher education, has seen probably the biggest cut under higher education. The allocation to the scheme dropped by 85 per cent — from Rs 2,100 crore in 2019-20 to Rs 300 this time. The cut comes in wake of the HRD Ministry flagging corruption in the scheme by its former joint secretary and national coordinator to the Prime Minister’s Office.
On January 27, The Indian Express had first reported that an audit by TISS had discovered that RUSA’s national coordinator B Venkatesh Kumar allegedly misappropriated Rs 2.02 crore of the funds. He had submitted handwritten taxi bills of Rs 1.26 crore to justify some of the expenditure.
That apart, Rs 23 lakh was allegedly spent out of RUSA funds on personal trips of Ishita Roy and her children within India and abroad. Roy, a 1991-batch IAS officer of Kerala cadre, was RUSA’s national mission director during her stint as joint secretary at the HRD Ministry.
The University Grants Commission, responsible for releasing grants to colleges and universities, has been allocated Rs 4,693 crore as against last year’s Budget announcement of Rs 4,600 crore. The All India Council for Technical Education will receive Rs 416 crore, as opposed to Rs 458 crore announced in 2019-20. Fee hike at the IITs and central universities such as Jawaharlal Nehru University had met with resistance from the student community last year. The budget for central universities has gone up from Rs 6,843 crore to Rs 7,643 crore, and for IITs from Rs 6,329 crore to Rs 7,182 crore.
RSS arm opposes FDI stand
RSS-affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch opposed the Budget announcement that the government will encourage FDI in education, saying it is a “bad idea” and will lead to “westernisation” of education.
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