Union Budget 2023: Trend of Centre’s Low Spending on Education Worsens Under Modi
Image Courtesy: PTI
The Indian government's spending on education continues to slide under Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule.
Union Budget figures show that in the years since Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister in 2014, the Central government’s expenditure on education ― which was already low ― has declined sharply.
The chart below shows the Central government's expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product) from 2013-14.
The Union government's spending on education amounted to just 0.63% of GDP in the 2013-14 financial year. In subsequent years, it fell precipitously, touching a low of 0.34% in 2021-22 during the pandemic period, and improving only marginally to 0.37% in 2022-23, according to revised estimates for the year.
The figure has remained the same, i.e. 0.37% of GDP, in the budget estimates for 2023-24, even though the Education Ministry has been allocated Rs 1.12 lakh crore this year, as opposed to last year’s Rs 1.04 lakh crore. The Department of School Education will receive Rs 68,804 crore, and the Department of Higher Education Rs 44,094 crore.
It is to be noted that the actual figure of 0.34% for 2021-22 is lower by 0.4% compared with the estimates based on revised estimates that were available at this time last year. Likewise, the figure of 0.37% for 2022-23 is also lower by 0.3% compared with the estimates based on last year's budget figures.
This points to a consistent trend that the Central government's actual spending on education has been significantly lower than the budget estimates.
During the nine years -- from 2013-14 to 2021-22, for which actuals (final figures) are available -- actual spending on education has been lower than the budget estimates for every year except 2017-18, when actual spending was higher than budget estimates by Rs 528.72 crore. During the other eight years, the actual spending fell short of the budget estimates ― the shortfall ranged from Rs 1,835.61 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 15,092.1 crore in 2020-21.
School education, which has a bigger budget allocation than higher education, faced more shortfalls. In 2022-23, for which revised estimates are available (but not the final figures), school education has seen a shortfall of Rs 4,396.59 crore.
However, there is something interesting about the figures for higher education in 2022-23. In all but two years 2013-14 onward, higher education faced shortfalls running into thousands of crores of rupees. But in 2022-23, the revised estimates are exactly the same as the budget estimates, to the decimal point ― Rs 40,828.35 crores. Revised estimates of expenditure under most of the sub-heads that form part of higher education differ from the budget estimates (some higher and some lower), but all add up to exactly the same as the budget estimates, almost as if by magic. We will have to wait for the actual figures to see if this "magic" will be repeated.
Nevertheless, the Union Budget 2023-24 ensures, tragically for India's students and people, that the trend of abysmally low spending on education by the Central government continues to worsen under BJP.
The writer is an economist and researcher at Tricontinental Research.
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