Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Rs 4000-cr axe falls on HRD

Rs 4000-cr axe falls on HRD
OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, Nov. 25: The finance ministry has slashed Rs 4,000 crore from the human resource development (HRD) ministry’s 2013-14 budget, sparking fears of delay in key education projects.
The revisions are part of a larger finance ministry move initiated last month to slash budgets of all ministries by around 10 per cent to rein in expenses and shore up government finances, sources said. The HRD’s cut is, however, lower than last fiscal when the bite was Rs 5,000 crore.
This year’s reductions are Rs 2,500 crore for school education, which will now be left with Rs 36,500 crore instead of the Rs 39,000 crore allocated in the budget this February.
Around Rs 1,500 crore has been shaved off the higher education kitty, which will now have to make do with Rs 14,710 crore instead of the original outlay of Rs 16,210 crore.
HRD ministry sources said the cuts could hit funding for colleges and state universities — given through the University Grants Commission (UGC) — and the model school scheme.
But the ministry may not reduce grants for activities under the Right To Education (RTE) Act as they are in the nature of statutory obligations.
According to former UGC secretary R.K. Chauhan, assistance is given to around 200 state universities and 6,000 government and government-aided colleges for infrastructure development.
Now, as a result of the cuts, funds to most of these institutions may be deferred till the start of the new financial year in April. “The funding will be deferred in case there is no cash. These institutions will get funds after April,” Chauhan added.
Former Delhi University vice-chancellor Deepak Pental was worried about the fate of new projects. “This government has given priority to education by increasing funding substantially. The slash in the budget may affect the growth of new institutions started in the last five years.”
The UPA government has started 16 central universities, eight IITs, six IIMs and 10 National Institutes of Technology (NITs). It is also setting up 6,000 model schools, equipped with advanced facilities, in every block. Officials said the cut could affect the pace of this project.
But HRD sources said funding for schools under the RTE Act would not be hit, nor would the interest subsidy scheme for education loans.
The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the main scheme to meet the RTE Act’s goals, has got Rs 27,258 crore in this year’s budget.

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