Special Correspondent

To fund secondary and higher education, capacity expansion

NEW DELHI: Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Wednesday announced an additional cess of one per cent on all taxes to fund secondary and higher education and expand capacity by 54 per cent in all Central educational institutions for extending reservation to Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

This will be in addition to the two per cent cess that has been in place since the first year of the United Progressive Alliance Government to fund the effort to universalise elementary education. The additional cess has been proposed in a year which will see allocation for education go up by 34.2 per cent, arguably the highest in any sector in the 2007-08 budget.

The budget proposals reflect the current concerns of the Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry: increasing access to secondary education as more students complete upper primary classes courtesy the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) to universalise elementary education and providing for a 54 per cent increase in intake in all Central educational institutions over the next three years in keeping with the 93rd Constitutional Amendment to extend reservation of seats in higher educational institutions to the OBCs without affecting the general category.

School education gets primacy and the Finance Minister has proposed to increase the allocation by about 35 per cent from Rs. 17,133 crore in the ongoing fiscal to Rs. 23,142 crore in 2007-08.

Of this, the SSA will get the lion's share of Rs. 10,671 crore. In view of the shortage of good teachers, allocation for teachers' training institutions has been enhanced from Rs. 162 crore to Rs. 450 crore and there is a proposal to appoint 2,00,000 more teachers and construct 5,00,000 more classrooms in 2007-08.

The Finance Minster has conceded a long-pending demand of the HRD Ministry for extending the Mid-Day Meal Scheme already the largest school meal programme to upper primary classes in 3,427 educationally backward blocks.

Though schemes for increasing access to secondary education are still being planned, the Finance Minister has doubled the provision for secondary education in anticipation from Rs. 1,837 crore in 2006-07 to Rs. 3,794 crore in 2007-08.

Similar doubling has been proposed for technical education in the Department of Higher Education from Rs. 1,736.34 crore to Rs. 3,870 crore as this is where OBC reservation-related expansion requires maximum funding.