Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Lack of funds hold up RTE implementation

Proper implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) may still take some time. The proposal of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to hike the Centres share of funds to 75% is stuck due to the Planning Commission. In the face of demands from the states for a higher contribution by the Centre and the analysis undertaken by the Anil Bordia Committee, the MHRD had prepared a note for the Expenditure Finance Committee outlining a new funding pattern for implementing the RTE, with the Centre shouldering 75% and the states 25% of the burden.

At present, the Centres share is at 55%. While other relevant ministries have signalled their willingness to consider a higher share for the Centre, the Planning Commission has not moved on the note. At the recently held state education ministers' conference and the meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), states repeatedly said the Centre needs to shoulder a greater financial burden. The states have asked the Centre fork out as much as 90% of the cost.

The states argued that the Right to Education makes the state and local bodies accountable for the implementation, however neither has the financial capacity. Some states like Uttar Pradesh have charged that since the central government takes all the credit for the legislation, it should also ensure that funds are available. The reaction of the states has not come as bolt from the blue.

In pre-notification meetings held by the Bordia Committee, state government representatives made it clear that the states would require additional funds. Most states stressed that all additional costs resulting from the RTE should be borne by the Centre. Bihar, Delhi and Kerala suggested the funding pattern of 90:10 be adopted. Some states such as Jammu and Kashmir maintained that the entire cost should be borne by the Centre. The broad consensus was that states were willing to go along with the 60:40 ratio adopted in 2009-10 as the RTE would result in a huge financial liability for the states.

The Bordia Committee, set up by the MHRD to harmonise the "Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan" and the RTE, suggested pegging the Centres share at 75%. The committee argued that sharing ratio of 55:45 (for the current year) and 50:50 (in 2011-12 ) would be unfavourable to the states as they would have to practically double their allocation.

It was found that at even at current sharing levels of 60:40 for the "Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan" as many as 14 states defaulted on their shares. Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa are among the defaulters. Given the financial backlog and the ensuing infrastructural backlog, it is being suggested that the Centre should provide a higher share.

Some experts say that while a 75:25 sharing pattern would be ideal, given the economic downturn and its impact and the Rs. 25,000 crore (Rs. 250 billion) allocation to states by the Thirteenth Finance Commission, a sharing pattern of 65:35 would also be acceptable.

Source: The Economic Times, July 6, 2010 (Report by Urmi A. Goswami)

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