Lok Satta

Thursday, 29 April 2010 00:00

Letter to Chief Minister

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29th April 2010

 

Sri K Rosaiah

 Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh

AP Secretariat Hyderabad

 

We are all aware of the ways and means crisis enveloping the state on account of reckless populism and cumulative impact of unsustainable policies on the sate exchequer.

 

As a result of the state’s ways and means problems, we are often acting in a penny-wise and pound-foolish manner, hunting the interests of the state severely. I would like to point out the problems encountered in the critical education sector on account of imagination and the persistent ad hoc approach adopted by the state.

 

Andhra Pradesh is spending the largest amount among all states in India towards fee reimbursement and scholarships in higher education. Though an amount of Rs 2300 crore has been allocated in 2010-11 budget, there is still unmet demand to a tune of Rs 1190 crores. If the total demand is to be met, it will need about Rs 3500 crores in 2010-11. With the increase in tuition fee for engineering education, the burden may go up to Rs 4000 crores. At the same time, the state is not able to release the state’s share of expenditure in critical centrally-sponsored schemes like Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Rajiv Gandhi Madhyamika Siksh Mission (RMSA). For instance, as against Rs 1100 crore projected programme under SSA meant for primary schools (from class 1 to class 8), the state could utilize only Rs 425 crore. This is because we could not get central funds as the state failed to release state’s share of 40%.

 

At the same time the state is borrowing money from various sources like RIDF to provide educational facilities in tribal and interior areas. In the present year 2010-11, SSA budget for the state (including central and state share and spill over) is project to be of the order of Rs 1700 crore. But by current indications, we may not achieve even Rs 800 crore to improve the school education of the poorest children in the state. There cannot be a greater abdication of responsibility, and a graver injustice to the poor. While the government is spending large sums for short-term consumption purposes, it has no will or capacity to utilize money available to improve education and eliminate poverty by helping people to stand on their own feet.

 

Similarly, this year the budget allocation under RMSA meant for high schools and junior colleges is about Rs 700 crore. But by current indications, the state will not be able to utilize more than Rs 150 – 200 cores. Thus under these two schemes of SSA and RMSA alone, the state is losing about Rs 800 – 1000 crore central funds on account of the state’s failure to release its share of the schemes.

 

The net result is, we are spending the highest amount in India on an ad hoc basis for fee reimbursement in higher education, and yet are unable to meet the demand; at the same time school education is starved of much-needed funds because we are not able to find the money to meet state’s 40% share of centrally sponsored SSA and RMSA. There cannot be a more shocking example of bad management of resources. Similar failure to avail central funds can be seen in the crucial health sector also. On behalf of Lok Satta Party, I urge you to take immediate corrective action to set things right in these vital sectors of education and healthcare. In respect of education, I urge you to take the following measures immediately:

 

1. The fee reimbursement scheme should be redesigned to meet the full, genuine demand from all eligible, poor families seeking higher education; at the same time the burden on the state exchequer should be reduced. Right now many families which can afford college fees are availing this facility, and many other deserving families are left out. The government should facilitate all poor students getting full education loan toward tuition fee, and a scheme of subsidizing interest must be designed to help the students during the period of study. The interest subsidy can be so adjusted as to make the loans interest-free or a bear a nominal interest of, say 3% during the period of college education. Then only those students who need support will seek loans. Interest subsidy can be credited to the banks directly. The burden on the state will be only of the order of Rs 300 – 500 crore and yet all the deserving students can be covered.

 

2. The money so saved can be utilized as state’s share of SSA and RMSA. The state will thus get an additional Rs 1000 crore from Government of India for education for the poor. Both SSA and RMSA can then be implemented in full measure. Andhra Pradesh has the worst record in literacy and school education among all the four Southern States and Maharashtra and Gujarat. We have to act with great commitment and dedication to improve the situation, without burdening the state exchequer. Now that the Right to Education Act is being implemented, and the Union Government is providing significant resources for school education, we should utilize the opportunity and improve our levels of literacy and education, and our human development indicators.

 

I am writing this letter with great sense of responsibility and in a non-partisan spirit, and I urge you to act immediately to retrieve the situation and protect the state’s interests.

 

With warm regards,

Jayaprakash Narayan