The Union Budget 2015-16 has turned out to be a complete failure in addressing the core issues and problems of the common masses of India. The students of the country will be particularly hit hard by the destructivepath that the BJP government has chosen to follow. At a time when the vast majority of people of the country are faced with falling living standards and rising unemployment, the government should have made major increases in the expenditure on education. But instead it has chosen to resort to massive fund cuts.
The budgeted expenditure by the central government on education has seen a colossal decline this year. The plan outlay for the Department of School Education & Literacy has been reduced from Rs. 51,828crore in last year’s budget to Rs. 39,038.50 crore. The Department of Higher Education has seen its allocation cut from Rs. 16,900 crore to Rs. 15,855.26 crore. Plan outlay for the SarvaSiksha Abhiyan has declined from 28,258 crore to Rs. 22,000 crore. Plan funds for the all-important Mid-Day Meal Scheme have been reduced from Rs. 13,215 crore to Rs. 9236.40 crore.Needless to add, the fund cuts in real terms (after taking into account inflation) aremuch larger. Plan outlay for secondary education has declined from Rs. 8,579 crore to Rs. 6,022 crore. The funds allocated to the UGC has stagnated at last year’s levels, which amounts to a cut in real terms. Technical education has witnessed fund cuts to the tune of Rs. 434 crore. Science education and research would suffer as the allocation for the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research has been cut by 25%.The total expenditure on education - Rs.68,968 crores - is a paltry 3.88% of the central budget, a far cry from the longstanding demand of the student community that 10% of the budget be spent on education.
The tall claims made by the Finance Minister in the Budget Speech regarding the government’s “commitment to the welfare of the poor and the middle class” have fallen flat. The Finance Minister has given the excuse of higher devolution of funds to the States for inadequate fund allocation to crucial sectors. But the hollowness of such justifications can be seen from the fact that the Plan allocation for every major head under education has declined even as a percentageof total Central Plan expenditure. This shows the skewed priorities and the total neglect of education by the Modi-led BJP government.
The result of such fund cuts will be a worsening of the quality of public education in India, which would then be used as an excuse for further commercialisation and privatisation of education, thus rendering education inaccessible to the vast majority of students in the country. The fund cuts in education have come even as the tax concessions doled out by the government to the rich increased from Rs. 5,49,984crores in 2013-14 to Rs.5,89,285crores in 2014-15. Corporate tax rates have been reduced and wealth tax has been abolished. In short, the budget proposals will only serve to heap misery on the common people while benefiting the rich.
SFI calls upon the student community to protest the anti-student, anti-people Union Budget presented by the BJP government.
Dr. V Sivadasan, Ritabrata Banerjee MP
President General Secretary