Whilst people like us who work in the stockmarket are busy cheering the booming economy, some of India’s largest states are busy cutting their spend on essential items which have a massive impact on the development of the country. To quote Prafulla Satpute: “Even as most states increased or kept their education budgets similar in 2021-22, compared with the previous year, they either spent the same or a lower proportion of the total state budget on education. Twelve states–Odisha, Gujarat, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka–reduced their allocations in 2021-22, in percentage terms.”
A few points are worth noting with regards to this sad development. Firstly, education is a state subject; hence this is one area where the Central Government can do little. Secondly, the states which have pulled back on education spend are all over the space – geographically, economically and politically. Thirdly, this pullback in education spend comes AFTER Covid-19 has already inflicted grave damage on the educational development of children from less privileged backgrounds.
The bad news gets worse when we look at what happened in the prior year, 2020-21, i.e. the year in which Covid-19 first hit India and the country was basically shut down for an entire quarter: “19 of 21 states are estimated to have spent less than what they set out to in 2020-21; that is, their revised estimates were lower than their budget estimates for that year.” One can understand that almost all states pulled back on education in the year in which Covid-19 first hit the economy. The fact that twelve states then pulled back their spend FURTHER in the subsequent fiscal is a damning indictment of how India functions.
A small group of people have come together to see what can be done to remedy the situation: “The National Coalition on the Education Emergency (NCEE), a group of individuals and organisations across the country which have come together to ‘resume and renew’ school education, released a policy tracker that analysed, for 21 states, the budget estimates and revised estimates for 2020-21 and the budget estimates for 2021-22…
“Tens of millions of poor children have lost basic skills. We need a massive infusion of public funds, and a revamped multiyear education strategy to address this emergency,” said Sajitha Bashir, former advisor at the World Bank and a core member of the NCEE.”
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