This year’s union budget has been presented in the backdrop of intensified economic crisis due to the disastrous demonetization, which was nothing but a ploy increase the liquidity in the banks that were on the brink of collapse due to the massively piled NPAs by the big businesses. However, finance minister in his budget has refused to even acknowledge the people’s woes caused by demonetization. Government claims that demonetization will have only short term impact and in the long run it will lead to ‘big, cleaner and real’ GDP. There is no economic rationale behind this assertion, at a time when demonetization has badly affected industrial output, agriculture and informal sector. In essence this year’s budget is an exercise in self deception.
The present situation required a massive increase in the budgetary allocations in social sector spending, so as to increase the domestic demand. However, the budget continues to be marred by neoliberal conservatism, with focus entirely on somehow reducing the fiscal deficit. While the fiscal deficit for the financial year 2016-17 was 3.2% of GDP, in the same year the tax forgone was a massive 3.18 lakh crore that is equal to 2.1% of the GDP. The social sector spending including that on education can be increased by reducing the concessions to the corporates and big businesses. The fact that government hasn’t done so is only a pointer of its priorities.
The budgetary outlay for SCs and STs are 2.4% and 1.2% of the total outlay respectively, both of which are far less than their share in population. Similarly the gender budget spending is merely 5.3% of the outlay, which again is far less than the prescribed 30%.
One more important aspect of this year’s budget has been the decision to do away with the classification of plan and non-plan expenditure. This is in line with the government’s decision to dismantle the Planning Commission and replacing the Five-Year Plan mechanism by a medium to long-term planning system under the NITI Aayog. Apart from a more aggressive push towards market reforms, this move also means that this year’s budgetary allocations can’t be compared with the last year’s allocations.
When it comes to education, finance minister’s budget speech is marred by absolute lack of attention and concern. No commitments have been made in increasing the budgetary outlays in any of the sectors. Instead we merely see some promises.
Finance minister talks about reforming UGC and then providing financial autonomy to the college and universities based on the ranking as per the mandatory accreditation. This is in tune with the neoliberal push that we have been witnessing since the period of congress-led UPA-1. It will only lead to increasing the already existing wide gap in the various sectors of education.
There is a talk of 100 international skills Centre with courses in foreign languages, Rs 4000 crore for skill acquisition and knowledge awareness and priority on science education. This too is in tune with the government’s empty rhetoric of ‘skill education’, while the actual trajectory of the educational policy is towards deskilling the youth.
We can clearly see increasing thrust of centralization with the proposal of a separate testing agency to take all entrance exams in the country; while the existing bodies such CBSE, AICTE etc will be asked to focus on academics only.
The CEC of SFI sees the union budget an exercise in self deception, which refuses to understand the ground reality of the masses. The same attitude can be witnessed in the budgetary allocations and promises made in the education sector. While the education sector today requires massive expansion to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend, the present approach of this government will only lead to worsening of the quality in all spheres of education. CEC calls upon all its units to remain vigilant on the concrete manifestations of this budget in the campuses and accordingly make necessary interventions.
VP Sanu (President) Vikram Singh (General Secretary)