Budget 2008: Some Exhilarating Proposals for Intellectual India

Many like me must be excited about FM’s proposals about the education sector significant increase in allocation for education- Sarva Shiksha Aviyan, extension of Mid-day Meal for 13.9 crore children and up to upper primary schools, setting up of 6,000 high quality model schools, some more Jawahar Yuva Kendras, Navodaya Vidyalayas in additional 20 districts, and 410 new Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas, instituting a large number of scholarships, taking major steps to create knowledge society, establishing new IITs and other institutes of national importance, and awarding three institutes of excellence. Some more ambitious ones may find it inadequate, but the priority has got now the governmental attention.

The total allocation for the education sector (including NER) will be increased by 20 per cent from Rs.28, 674 crore in 2007-08 to Rs.34, 400 crore in 2008-09. What percentage of GDP is allocated to education? Is it now 6% as promised?
Will the extension of Mid-day meal to 13.9 crore children to all upper primary classes stop dropping out? Is it incentive enough to go to schools? Will the teachers be going for refresher courses to update themselves, or be showing more compassion and paying more attention to their students? Will the teaching become interesting enough for the children to enjoy the hours in the schools? The Finance Minister’s intentions are clear, but the roadmap is missing. “The focus of SSA will shift from access and infrastructure at the primary level to enhancing retention; improving quality of learning; and ensuring access to upper primary classes.” FM has mentioned of some of the work done and the new interesting proposals:

Institutes of national importance: An IIM at Shillong; three IISERs at Mohali, Pune and Kolkata; and an IIIT at Kanchipuram have started functioning. Government will establish one Central University in each of the hitherto uncovered States. We propose to make a beginning in 2008-09 by establishing 16 Central Universities. Besides, we propose to set up three IITs in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan; two IISERs at Bhopal and Tiruvananthapuram; and two Schools of Planning and Architecture at Bhopal and Vijayawada. Eleventh Five Year Plan appears to be giving education its due importance.

Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute, Pune one of the oldest institutions of modern learning in India gets a grant of Rs.5 crore. Three institutions of excellence- Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth, Rahuri, Maharashtra; University of Mysore, Mysore; and Delhi University, Delhi will get a special grant of Rs 100 crore each. I dream of the day when 150- year old Presidency College, Kolkata gets a recognition as a heritage educational institute.

Science and Technology: To encourage the students to take to careers in science and research and development, Ministry of Science and Technology will introduce a scheme called Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) that will include scholarships for young learners (10-17 years), scholarships for continuing science education (17-22 years) and opportunities for research careers (22-32 years). FM has provided Rs.85 crore in 2008-09 for this inspired contribution to building a knowledge society.

Government has accepted an important recommendation of the National Knowledge Commission to inter-connect all knowledge institutions through an electronic digital broadband network that will encourage sharing of resources and collaborative research. FM provided the Ministry of Information and Technology Rs. 100 crore for establishing the National Knowledge Network.

Information Technology: FM has enhanced the allocation to the Department of Information Technology from Rs.1,500 crore in 2007-08 to Rs.1,680 crore in 2008-09 for driving the growth of Information Technology and Information Technology Enabled Services. A scheme for establishing 100,000 broadband internet-enabled Common Service Centres in rural areas and a scheme for establishing State Wide Area Networks (SWAN) with Central assistance are under implementation. A new scheme for State Data Centres has also been approved. FM has provided Rs.75 crore for the common service centres, Rs.450 crore for SWAN and Rs.275 crore for the State Data Centres.

One day in an integrated public-private initiative, all the 6.5 lakh schools of the country, including those in rural India must be part of the knowledge network and get benefit of online education.

Let the country get status of knowledge-predominate country. ‘Tamso Maa Jyotir Gamay’.

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