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Tall Claims Punctured: Rs 9,103 Crore Unspent Under Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan in UP Over 3 Years

Minister of State for Education Annapurna Devi, while answering a question in Lok Sabha, had said that Rs  6,561 crore were unused by the state government, while the education ministry's project approval board claims that Rs 9,103 crore have not been spent by the Yogi Adityanath-led state government for the SSA scheme.
UP

Image for representational purpose. Credit: The Wire

Lucknow: Around 33.4% of the funds allocated for improving the quality of education and infrastructure under Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in government schools between 2019-20 and 2022-23 — totalling Rs 9,103 crore — were left unused by Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government, NewsClick has learnt. 

According to the minutes of the education ministry’s project approval board (PAB) meetings from 2019 to 2022 and based on a response to the Lok Sabha question, the UP government in the last three years, utilised Rs 18,130 crore of total Rs 27,234 crore released by the Centre to improve the infrastructure of schools and to provide quality education in 75 districts that have more than 1.28 crore students at primary and over 52.53 lakh of upper primary schools. 

As per data released by the Ministry of Education in Lok Sabha, in 2019-20, the central government had proposed to release Rs 5,609 crore, but released Rs 4,986 crore. In 2020-21, the government approved Rs 5,533 crore, but released Rs 4,572 crore. The pace of release was slower compared to 2019-2021 as only Rs 2,045 crore were given to the state government out of the Rs 5,123 crore proposed fund. For three years, the Union government did not allocate the stipulated amount of funds. 

 

Source- Unstarred question No. 2335 is for the ninth session of the seventeenth Lok Sabha, answered on 01 August 2022

The difference between the allocation and the released funds adds up to approximately Rs 4,663 crore over the last three years, the data suggests. The slow release of funds has also affected state spending.

The central government’s reluctance to release funds under its Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan scheme is said to be the main reason for the pathetic situation of the government-aided schools. The government has launched many programmes and schemes including SSA, midday meals, free books, free two sets of uniforms, etc. for the progress and development of primary education. But adequacy and timeliness of the supply of the funds for the schemes have been always questionable.

CM Yogi and PM Modi have regularly praised each other and used every occasion to remind people that Uttar Pradesh has become a shining example of "the double-engine government's double benefits" and that this ‘double engine’ government is just what was needed in the country’s most populous state. But data reveals that the UP government has not been even able to spend the money released by the Centre and has a huge unspent balance (more than the shortfall in the Centre's release). 

The tall claims made by CM Yogi Adityanath that the primary schools of the state are surpassing the convent schools in terms of basic facilities and infrastructure do not appear to be true. 

Rs 9,103 Crore Not Spent by UP Govt Over Last 3 Years 

As per the data released by the ministry, Rs 9,103 crore were unused by the BJP-led state government in the last three years, between 2019-20 to 2021-22.

Rs 2,535 crore were not used by the government in 2019-20; the unspent amount increased in 2020-21 to Rs 2,657. In 2021-22, the unused amount significantly increased to Rs 3,911 crore. It speaks volumes about the overall focus and priority of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government.

 

Source- PAB Meeting report of various years.

NewClick has gathered data from two sources – Lok Sabha and PAB meetings for the last three years. Both government documents make different claims while denoting the unspent balance. Minister of State for Education Annapurna Devi, while answering a question in Lok Sabha, had said that Rs  6,561 crore were unused by the state government while PAB claims that Rs 9,103 crore have not been used by the Yogi Adityanath-led state government for the SSA scheme.

The Vision of Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Ground Reality 

The Samagra Shiksha, an integrated scheme for school education was conceived by subsuming the erstwhile centrally sponsored schemes Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), and Teachers’ Education (TE) from 2018-19. It is an overarching programme for the school education sector extending from pre-school to class XII and aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels of school education. The scheme provides support inter-alia for the establishment of new schools by upgradation of upper primary schools to secondary schools and upgradation of secondary schools to senior secondary schools and, thus, for the establishment of composite schools. The scheme is also supposed to help strengthen the infrastructure of existing schools. The scheme is jointly funded by the Centre and the state on a 65:35 sharing basis.

Interestingly, the new academic session has already begun and children have started going to school, but the government is yet to give them books and uniforms — interestingly, citing paucity of funds.

A government official said that due to the delay in the process of finalising tenders and a lower number of tenders, the publisher could not publish the books on time. However, the “government is trying its best to provide books to students”.

A teacher in the state-run school said: "We have not received new books from the government. Hence, we have collected the books from the children of the previous session."

The rainfall may have been sparse thus far, but the onset of monsoons has revived questions surrounding the state of infrastructure of the government schools in the state. Barring a few, in most government schools, new buildings have come up where classes are held, but the crumbling structures remain standing next to the new ones, continuing to pose a threat to students who often play and roam on the premises.

Many school buildings have developed major cracks and ceilings seem ready to fall at any time, especially during the rains, which make them very unsafe for students as well as teachers. A teacher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, questioned if the state government may not have funds for the books or money to repair dilapidated buildings and provide drinking water and sanitation facilities, why it could not spend from the Rs 9,103 crore balance to meet these basic requirements. 

Protiva Kundu, a researcher at the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, told NewsClick, "In UP, underutilisation of Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan fund is mostly on account of pending civil works. Money allotted for construction and upgradation of secondary schools, the extension of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya schools remained unutilised as the schedule rate for construction approved under guidelines of Samagra is very low. So, it is difficult for the state to pursue construction work with such low unit costs. During the pandemic, other civil works were also halted, reducing fund utilisation. While digital delivery of education was promoted from the time of the pandemic, the fund allocated for electrification of schools, construction of smart classrooms largely remained unutilised.”

Schools Lack Basic Infrastructure, Shortage of Teachers 

Most government schools, especially those located in rural areas, lack basic facilities like availability of computers, books in libraries, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) labs. This was despite the fact that the central government has provided a huge amount under SSA. 

Over 1.26 lakh teaching posts in Uttar Pradesh are vacant, according to the minutes of the education ministry’s project approval board meetings in 2022. The vacant posts are at the elementary level in government schools, while the SSA scheme supports the push for universalisation of education at that level.

Teacher vacancies were relatively lower in secondary schools compared to primary and upper primary schools across states, despite the fact that free elementary education is guaranteed by the law – the Right to Education Act 2009 – and is a fundamental right.

Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE) dashboard study suggests that around 29% of the government schools and 50% of government-aided schools do not have access to libraries with books. Furthermore, it was found that 25% of government and 18% of aided schools are powerless and only 4,062 government schools have access to internet connections.

To make the situation worse, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2021 reports point out that the quality of education imparted is poor. Female education is the determining factor in the status of malnutrition amongst the children below the age of five. More than 35% of children below the age of five are stunted. They will be trapped in poverty and would remain dependent on others throughout life.

Nearly 1.53 lakh shiksha mitras or ad hoc para teachers in Uttar Pradesh have been protesting for the last five years to initiate favourable measures to reappoint shiksha mitras as assistant teachers in primary schools. Also, the contractual teachers in the state have questioned why when “full duty” (12 months) is expected of them, an honorarium for only 11 months is paid – that too not on time.  The contractual teachers’ union claims that the indifferent attitude of the state government has put a question mark on the future of these teachers.

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