Modi government’s stepchild by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (May 6, 2015)

Narendra Modi government has come to power on a plank of “development”, a thriving economy and people’s economic wellbeing. In practice, it has ended up doing just the opposite.

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen says public health and education are the foundations on which development stands. To handle jobs in a vast development enterprise people need different levels of education and training as well as health and fitness to do assigned work efficiently.

The first thing that Modi government has done in this regard is heavily cutting allocation to both health and education. Sen says health and education enable people to earn enough to sustain a flourishing market. A government that de-emphasises these two cannot be development friendly or a champion of market. We will come to health in a later article.

In this column we have earlier discussed the budget cuts on health and education, two stepchildren of Modi government. Here we revisit for a while stepchild number one, education. Funding has been slashed across the board, from primary level to university level and elite institutions like IITs.

The overall education budget has been brought down from Rs. 82, 771 crore to Rs. 69,074 crore, a massive cut from any standards. Under the UPA, the Plan allocation was hiked by 18.2 percent in 2012-2013 and 8.3 percent in 2013-2014. On the other hand, BJP government has reduced Plan allocation for 2015-2016 by 24.68 percent.

The Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan has been reduced by 22.14 percent, funding for the Mid-day Meal by 16.41 percent, Rashtriya Madhyama Shiksha Abhiyan by 28.7 percent and Rashtriya Uchchtar Shiksha Abhiyan by 48 percent.

Such cuts have been made across the entire spectrum of education and the above is only a brief glimpse. The government’s announcement about creating five new IITs is also surrounded by ambiguity. There is a mismatch between the size of funds required and the quantum of funds allocated.

There is a certain lack of seriousness visible in the choice of persons to lead the HRD ministry, University Grants Commission, Indian Council for Historical Research and allied organisations regulating higher learning. The government’s choice for heading such organisations has gone in favour of a person without any academic background (the HRD minister), “historians” who think myth is history and “scientists” who claim that planes were used by Indians thousands of years ago to fly to other countries, and we had surgeons who could graft elephant’s head on human neck. In a speech before “distinguished” academics the prime minister himself endorsed these views. No wonder, the government is treating education like a stepchild.

 

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