News and views about the implementation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 and other legislation, schemes and policies impacting the Right to Education of India's Children.
New Delhi: The
central government is faced with the prospect of a large bill to pay
for the implementation of one of the key elements of the right to
education (RTE) legislation—reimbursing private schools that reserved
25% of their seats for underprivileged children—even as the 31 March
deadline for most of the law’s other clauses have been missed.
year after the Supreme Court upheld the RTE norm to reserve seats in
private schools for poor children around 20 states have sought extra
funds for this. This could cost Rs.2,500
crore in the first year, rising over the next seven years, according to
two government officials with knowledge of the development who didn’t
want to be named.
This could amount to about Rs.16,000
crore or more than 60% of the current annual budget for the Sarva
Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the main vehicle for implementing RTE.
human resource development ministry has received demand from more than
half of the states and Union territories and they would take this to the
project approval board soon. This is the first year after the apex
court order. The requirement is only going to increase,” said one of the
two government officials cited above.
The government will take up the demands of the states as and when they are made, said the second official cited above.
economic scenario is not very conducive and SSA does not have enough
allocation. We have to cut our coat according to the cloth,” the
official said, indicating that the demand may not be met in its
For the 2013-14 fiscal year, SSA-RTE has a budget allocation of Rs.27,258 crore but the actual requirement is more thanRs.40,000
crore, according to official estimates. The human resource development
(HRD) ministry will be hard-pressed to find the money, given the cash
crunch and the increase in cooking gas prices, which has given the
ministry an additional fuel bill to the tune of Rs.600
crore. The government has reined in the supply of subsidized cooking
gas in order to curb its fiscal deficit. The gas is used to make mid-day
meals for schools in order to provide nutritious food to children as
well as ensure that they don’t drop out.
“This year we will need around Rs.100 crore and by the end of seventh year, our reimbursement bill will be at least Rs.800 crore,” said K. Partha Sarathy, secondary education minister of Andhra Pradesh.
Maharashtra education minister Rajendra J. Darda had
a similar view. In a state like his, where the percentage of private
schools is higher than the national average of 20%, the bill could
inflate faster in the years to come.
to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) published by education
non-profit Pratham, more than 35% of children are pursuing elementary
education in private schools in rural Maharashtra. This exceeds 36% in
Andhra Pradesh. Both state and central governments acknowledge that the
concentration of private schools in urban India is much more.
Madhya Pradesh has said it will need about Rs.400 crore in total for reimbursements by the seventh year and the demand for this year is nearly Rs.50 crore.
ministry officials hold that their first concern is the current year,
when the requirement is less. At least 25% of the schools in Madhya
Pradesh are private schools and it needs central funding to reimburse
them so that underprivileged children can pursue eight years of
compulsory education under the RTE Act, said Archana Chitnis, state education minister.
reimbursement issue cropped after the Supreme Court upheld the
constitutional validity of the RTE Act in a landmark judgement on 12
April 2012, and decided that private schools have to admit at least 25%
students from economically weaker sections in the neighbourhood, a
concept that government believes will promote social inclusiveness. The
government had said then that it will pay for the 25% of students to be
schooled in private institutions in this manner. “If you want an
inclusive society, society has to take the burden of this,” Kapil Sibal,
then HRD minister, had said after the court verdict. The RTE Act came
into force on 1 April 2010, with a mandate to provide compulsory
education for all children in the 6-14 age group by 31 March 2013. The
deadline is over but several of the norms, including an adequate number
of teachers and infrastructure, are yet to be met, HRD minister M.M. Pallam Rajuconceded last week.