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Modi One year – Education and Health last priorities

Fund cuts pinch edu & health schemes 
Slashing the education budget and keeping the outlay on health static in Modi govern ment’s first Budget was seem ingly based on the sound logic of the Finance Commission giving bigger share of taxes to states.But three months later, harsh reality has sunk in. Mid-Day Meal (MDM) cooks, anganwadi workers and Mahila Samakhya workers have hit the streets and state governments are feeling the heat. As Central government is working towards changing the funding pattern of flagship programmes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), MDM Scheme, Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) and National Health Mission, states are up in arms.

Officials feel the confusion on the new funding pattern coupled with clear reluctance of many states to increase the allocation could mar the social sector which the government claims is on top of its agenda.

HRD ministry’s two programmes -SSA, initiated during the Vajpayee era, and MDM -based on the funding pattern of 65:35 between the Centre and states, are now all set to become a 50:50 programme as school education budget came down to Rs 42,219 crore in 2015-16 from Rs 55,115 in 2014-15. These programmes will face severe squeeze in north-eastern states where funding pattern was 90:10 between Centre and states. States, including those ruled by BJP , are voicing their concern in the Programme Advisory Board meeting of SSA and MDM. “In real terms devolution by finance commission is not working out the way it was expected,“ said a senior official handling education in MP , a BJP-ruled state.

The cut in funds will have its impact on SSA. “MDM is already full of problems. With the new funding pattern, focus will be more on running the programme rather than stress on quality ,“ an HRD ministry official said.

In higher education HRD was hopeful that RUSA -considered the best initiative to reform state universities -will make the difference. “We are protesting against proposal of 50:50 funding pattern. RUSA was getting positive response,“ an official said. Also, officials point out that with equal funding pattern, Centre will lose the moral strength to pull up laggard states.

The women and child development ministry’s been hit even worse. The Plan outlay of Rs 21,000 crore in 201415 has been nearly halved to Rs 10,286.7 crore this year. This could put at stake the future of ICDS, implemented through a network of about 7,067 operational projects and about 13.42 lakh Anganwadi centers. An upset WCD minister Maneka Gandhi has written to finance minister Arun Jaitley and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, convener of CMs panel in Niti Aayog, that restructuring of the centrally-sponsored programmes be delayed.

Devolution of funds to states will hit ICDS in another way . The expense for supplementary nutrition is met by the Centre and states in a 50:50 ratio.All non-nutrition expenses are met by the Centre. Now payout for anganwadis could be affected since 90% of it comes from Central funds.

Other WCD programmes like Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls has also been hit with paltry provision of Rs 75.5 crore as against the demand for Rs 1,476 crore.National Nutrition Mission that was all set to be expanded to 253 districts will now be limited to 53 districts as only Rs 205.79 crore have been allotted against the requirement of Rs 438 crore.

Absence of additional budgetary support is likely to affect the government’s plans for better healthcare services. Several ambitious schemes such as free medicines and diagnostics (under the National Health Assurance Mission) have not taken off. Though the health ministry has done well in ramping up its immunization programme, it is yet to launch more vaccines under the programme.

The government’s healthcare outlay is stagnant at about Rs 33,000 crore and has not translated to any increase from 1.2% of GDP to 2-2.5% as suggested in the draft national health policy.

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