States are failing to spend their education budgets - because the budgets are too low -Shreya Roy Chowdhury
Chronic underspending on education has created governance systems that are unable to use the allocated funds.
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has found that states failed to spend over Rs 10,000 crores made available to them for elementary education every year between 2010-’11 and 2015-’16.
The auditor’s report, which was tabled in the Lok Sabha on July 21, reviewed the implementation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, which makes education a fundamental right for children between six and 14 years of age.
But educationists argue that funds not being spent does not imply that they are not required. On the contrary, they said, chronic low spending on education has created governance systems that are incapable of using the funds. This low utilisation has, in turn, resulted in low allocations under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan – the only Central government scheme that supports the implementation of the Right to Education Act. Under the scheme, which was introduced in 2000-’01, states unable to utilise the funds received in a year got less than what was required in the next.
According to Protiva Kundu of the think tank Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, as the unspent amount accumulated with the states, it led to an “overall shrinking of the budget”, even while schools continued to be starved of funds.
A study by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy recently estimated the extent of this underfunding. As reported on Scroll.in, the study found that in 2015-’16, twelve states fell short of Rs 82,072 crore required to meet the minimum standards in elementary education under the Right to Education Act.
This shortfall could not have been bridged by better spending alone. As the national auditor’s report shows, in 2015-’16, the unspent funds for elementary education for all states put together came to just Rs 12,411 crore.
It would take unspent funds lying with all states over six years to equal the shortfall in the education spending of 12 states for a single year.
Shortage of staff, resources
The auditor’s report noted that state governments were “constantly unable to utilise the funds ranging from 21% to 41% during 2010-’11 to 2015-’16”. In absolute terms, the amount that remained unspent with states each year ranged between Rs 12,259 crores and Rs 17,282 crores.
In its reply to the national auditor, the Ministry of Human Resource Development was “silent about the reasons for heavy unutilised balances”.
Kiran Bhatty of the Centre for Policy Research explained, “The reason for under-utilisation is that the whole governance structure is highly deficient. There are huge vacancies at every level. Blocks and district offices are under-resourced. The few staff available have to manually fill in hundreds of increasingly complex and detailed forms, designed in Delhi, every month. The entire system is unable to manage.”
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Scroll.in, 1 August, 2017, https://scroll.in/article/845258/states-are-failing-to-spend-their-education-budgets-because-the-budgets-are-too-low