Govt denies kids cash for school
The money every taxpayer pays towards the Primary Education Cess, meant to improve the quality of government schooling in the country, is not being used entirely for the purpose.
A sizeable portion of the collections under the 2 per cent cess was never transferred to the Prarambhik Shiksha Kosh (PSK), the dedicated corpus for the purpose that is maintained by the department of school education and literacy under the human resource development (HRD) ministry.
Nor does the pending amount seem likely to come to the Kosh, going by the stand the finance ministry’s department of economic affairs (DEA) recently took when the HRD ministry sought the outstanding funds.
“The people of India cut down on their expenses to support the cause of education. But if the money is not transferred to the Kosh, it is unethical,” said educationist J.S. Rajput, founding chairperson of the National Council of Teacher Education.
The UPA government had introduced the cess in 2004-05. The total amount collected between then and 2017-18 stands at a little over Rs 2 lakh crore (Rs 212,967.63 crore).
From this, the DEA has transferred Rs 199,642.21 crore to the Kosh so far, which is Rs 13,325.42 crore (6.25 per cent) short of the total.
The money collected in the first two years — 2004-05 and 2005-06 — was not transferred since there was no dedicated corpus yet. The Kosh was set up in 2006 as a “non-lapsable fund”, to be spent on the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, which aims at bringing elementary education to every child, and the school midday meal scheme.
These schemes receive funds from the budgetary allocations on education every year.
According to the PSK Resolution, the money from the cess is to be spent only after the budgetary allocations are exhausted.
But the Rs 113,12.84 crore collected under the cess in the first two years has still not been transferred to the Kosh, while in subsequent years the transfer has been erratic, increasing the outstanding amount by another Rs 2,012.58 crore.
A parliamentary committee last year said the school education department should ensure that the balance amount is spent on education.
Subsequently, on September 20 this year, R.C. Meena, joint secretary in the HRD ministry, wrote to Arvind Shrivastava, a joint secretary in the DEA: “You are requested to kindly look at the matter on priority basis and take necessary action for immediate transfer of proceeds… and furnish reply to this department expeditiously.”
On October 16, an office memorandum signed by Amit Bansal, DEA undersecretary (budget), appeared to suggest the outstanding amount might not be transferred at all.
It said the school education department should first exhaust the money from the Kosh before using the budgetary allocations, a stand contrary to the PSK Resolution.
“(The) education cess collected from FY 2004-05 and 2005-06 was Rs 4,176.92 crore and Rs 7,135.92 crore (respectively). The budget estimates for the department during the above years (were) Rs 6,004.68 crore and Rs 12,536.53 crore, respectively (which comes to Rs 18,541.21 crore). In other words, the government spent more budgetary resources on the (school education department) than was collected as cess,” the memo added.
“As regards the short use of PSK in subsequent years, the (school education department) should ensure complete use of PSK first before utilising the gross budgetary support, so that no amount of PSK gets surrendered at the end of the financial year.”
But the PSK Resolution says: “In any financial year, the expenditure on these schemes shall be initially incurred from other budgetary resources (OBR) component of the plan allocation and the expenditure will be financed from PSK only after the OBR is exhausted.”
Rajput said the DEA’s argument that it had spent more through the budget cannot be used to hold on to the cess funds.
“The world over the best investment is an investment in education. If they have spent more money on education in 2004-05 and 2005-06 than was collected through the cess, they have not done anyone a great favour. The cess corpus is to be used over and above the budgetary support. The cess collections must be transferred in full,” Rajput said.
An email sent on December 19 to DEA secretary S.C. Garg seeking clarity on the matter has remained unanswered, as has another sent the same day seeking the HRD ministry’s perspective on the DEA stand.