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Allocate more for education, children tells President
Published on 18 Feb. 2010 11:29 PM IST
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With less than 10 days to go for the union budget, children from across the country gathered here Wednesday demanding an increase in allocation for education. The kids also expressed their concerns to President Pratibha Patil in a letter. The children urged that public spending on education be increased to 6 percent from a dismal 3.37 percent of the GDP. The union budget for the next fiscal will be tabled in parliament Feb 26. “Every year the government says that education is a priority but the budgetary allocation remains the same. In villages like mine, schools function with just two-three teachers and have no infrastructure. How can we study with conditions like these?” asked Abhishek, who hails from Jharkhand. The children, who gathered here, protested by writing their demands with chalks on their slates and marching on Parliament Street in the heart of the capital. Ramakant Rai of the National Coalition for Education said: “So that the Right to Education is properly implemented, it is important that a National Commission for Education is formed on the lines of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), so that any issue pertaining to the difficulties in the implementation process can be addressed.” According to Rai, the children’s memorandum to the president also contended that removing child labour completely is the only way to attain the education goals. The protest was organised by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), a child rights organisation. Meanwhile, urging the government to come up with a pro-poor budget this year, a group of NGOs here has called for an increased allocation for health and education as public spending in both these sectors continues to be dismal. The NGOs have also asked the government to ensure that the allocated resources were effectively utilised. “We had a series of consultations across the country and have concluded that there is a need for greater allocation in budget for health and education. The UPA government promised a hike in public spending on education to six percent, but it remains a dismal 3.37 percent of the GDP,” Nisha Agarwal of Oxfam India said in a press meet here Wednesday. It’s a similar story with the allocation for health. Another NGO, the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA), said the combined budgetary allocation -- that is, the total outlay from both union budget and state budget -- for health stands at 1.04 percent of the GDP for 2008-09. This is despite the UPA government’s commitment to increase the total spending on health to two to three percent of the GDP in the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) in 2004. Agarwal said: “We have a lot of hopes pinned with the budget that will be announced Feb 26. While there are a lot of issues, we are happy that for the first time the finance minister has decided to meet some of the NGOs and hear the civil society’s perspective on the budget.” “Our demands are very basic. We just want that some essential services be made accessible to all. While we are happy that the Right to Education will finally be notified April 1, we also want that there should be a Right to Healthcare and Right to Food for all,” she added. Effective utilisation of funds is also an important issue. “Money is not an issue today, but effective utilisation of funds is. In case of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), in 2007-08 it was seen that the level of fund utilisation was low in several states like Uttar Pradesh (55 percent), Orissa (59 percent), Maharashtra (59 percent) and Tamil Nadu (51 percent)” Agarwal said. “Therefore, besides greater allocation of funds, effective utilisation is also important,” she added.

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