Published: 14th February 2019
This government has consistently slashed education spend and it is shameful: Shashi Tharoor
Being his usual eloquent self, Shashi Tharoor speaks up for the rural minority about the government's proclivity to channel its funds elsewhere
The BJP government's budget has consistently gone down every year for the last five years on three areas: women and child Development, health and education said Shashi Tharoor, MP and senior Congress leader speaking at TNIE's ThinkEdu conclave 2019. "Every year, the health and education budget has gone down. In some cases in absolute rupee terms and in some cases as a percentage of government's expenditure. And in all cases, as a percentage of GDP (Gross Domestic Product)," he said and added with impact, "It's shameful."
This lack of funding for these areas has led to the creation of unemployable youngsters and in turn has fueled the increase of Maoist incidence in the country, he charged. "We have a national security crisis. Why do we have Maoist incidents in 165 out of our country's 707 districts? It's because these are people who are uneducated or under educated, who are unemployed and almost certainly unemployable and therefore have zero stake in our society. So they are vulnerable to the blandishment of some misguided ideologue. It's failure of skill development in our education system that have maximised the Maoist incidents" he said.
He elaborated on how the money was being spent on other things - like the statue of Sardar Vallabhai Patel. "Our government spends a lot of money on a lot of things it shouldn't. We have spent Rs 3,000 Cr on a statue in Gujarat. How many IITs and IIMs could that have funded? It only takes Rs 100 Cr to run an IIT or an IIM. I mean, let's be serious. This government's priorities are misplaced. They have their own agenda and that's what they're pursuing" he said.
He further accused the Centre of cutting down on two-thirds of the funds for IIMs and all the funding for NITs. "The current budget that was passed just a couple of days ago has cut the budget for the IIMs by two-thirds and the NITs have no allocation at all. How do you expect them to function?" he asked in an acidic voice.
The answer to most of these problems was to build capacity. "Like China, for instance. Look at the sheer number of seats they have in their colleges," he said. Once that capacity is built and outstanding foreign faculty, private participation and strong government colleges are empowered, most of India's education quandaries would be sorted.
He further accused the government of talking a big game and performing very little on that account. "The current government talks a big game and are much better at slogans. 'Beti Bachao... Beti Padao Beti ke liye paise math do,'" he commented adding that there is a lot more than a social or economic crisis in education.