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Education flu: Have funds, will not spend

New Delhi, Dec. 23: India’s education czars have failed to utilise even a third of the funds allocated to them in the 2007-08 budget, with several plans remaining confined to the pipelines, according to a report.

In a report finalised earlier this week, an internal accounts committee of the human resource development ministry has asked top education officials to expedite the process of implementing all programmes.

The report has come as a jolt to ministry officials, fresh from winning for education its largest chunk out of the country’s financial pie — the 11th Five Year Plan.

On Wednesday, the National Development Council (NDC) had approved the five-year plan with education receiving funds five times more than what it got under the previous plan.

While Rs 62,238 crore was allocated to education under the 10th plan, Rs 2,87,362 crore has been reserved for the sector over the coming five years. In terms of percentage of the total plan budget, the funding for education has gone up from 7.7 last time to 18.2 in this plan.

Addressing the NDC, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had called education the “most favoured sector” for his government. But the HRD accounts committee report indicates that budget allocations are not enough.

Of the total outlay of Rs 6,480.50 crore in the 2007-08 budget — including for programmes outside the plan’s ambit — only Rs 1,932.67 crore has been released for projects until December 17, the report says. Eight months into the financial year, the ministry has spent only 30 per cent of the funds allocated to it, according to the report.

Ironically, the 11th Five Year Plan — despite the riches it has brought to education — is the punchbag for some in the ministry.

“One factor for the low utilisation is probably that we have been occupied to some extent in preparing for the plan, pitching for the required amount of funds,” an official said.

Some programmes, initially to be launched this year, have now been pushed under the purview of the 11th plan.

Officials say all the blame for failing to utilise funds should not lie at the doorstep of the ministry alone.

Many education projects are “massive in scale” and need several layers of approval, they point out.

“There are several layers through which projects need to go through. Financial committees have to clear a project before it can be launched. These are complicated procedures which often get delayed,” explained an official.

Nor is there any evidence that the bodies that get the government funds use them “particularly efficiently”, he added.

In a report submitted during the recent winter session of Parliament, a House standing committee has slammed universities for not utilising central funds given to them.

The committee found that varsities had, till February 21, utilised Rs 43,992.62 crore out of the Rs 68,205.41 (64.5 per cent) granted to them under the 10th plan.

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