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Switching tracks, for funds’ sake

New Delhi, Nov. 4: Till recently, Murli Manohar Joshi refused financial aid from foreign donors who set conditions for the assistance. Not so anymore.

Faced with a funds crunch in implementing the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan — the drive to universalise elementary education — the human resources development minister is passing the hat among top funding agencies.

The sources he is tapping to extract additional funds for the high-profile scheme include the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).

The programme is at present running on a huge deficit. The human resources ministry needs Rs 32,000 crore to implement the project, but it has been sanctioned only Rs 17,000 crore in the 10th Five Year Plan. The scheme envisages that the Centre would provide 75 per cent of the funds and the states 25 per cent.

“We are trying to make good the deficit by starting low-cost schemes for the SSA,” said education secretary S.C. Tripathi at a news conference today.

The government was “pushing” some states, particularly Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal, to achieve the goal of the Abhiyan and even with 50 per cent success, it would be a great achievement, he said.

At a forthcoming international conference in Delhi on universalisation of elementary education, Joshi will urge donor agencies to put India on the “fast track” mode for disbursing funds.

At present, India is not among the 18 countries identified for receiving fast-track funds.

Even among the 18 shortlisted countries, only seven are receiving aid. “This raises concerns regarding the ability of multilateral and bilateral agencies to live up to their pledges and commitments in support of EFA (Education for All programme),” says a note prepared by Joshi’s ministry.

“We want India to raise the issue at the conference,” said Tripathi. Apart from representatives from 22 countries, a host of donor agencies, including the World Bank and the DFID, will attend the conference.

At a recent conclave of Commonwealth education ministers in Edinburgh, Joshi called for faster flow of funds for the Education for All programme.

He reminded the developed countries of their “commitment” that the programme would not suffer for lack of funds at the Dakar world education forum two years ago.

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