Hyderabad: Owing to a mass revenue shortfall Telangana revised and slashed its budget estimates from Rs 164,444 crores presented in February to Rs 146,482. Meanwhile, the budget which ensured to increase allocation for Kalyana Lakshmi & Shaadi Mubarak scheme by 6% has however decreased the education budget to a tremendous 25%.
The total amount allotted for Telangana state educational budget 2019-20 is Rs 9,899 Cr. Compared to last year this is a 25% reduction from Rs. 13,278.19 Cr of the 2018-19 budget. A further break down of the budget shows that the amount allotted for school education has reduced by 24 per cent- 10,830.30 to 8,209.01, higher education by 32 per cent- 2025.57 to 1367.88 and technical education by 24 per cent- 422.32 to 322.91.
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Under the state scheme for promoting marriage Rs, 1,540.45 Cr has been allotted to Kalyan Lakshmi and Shaadi Mubarak in comparison to Rs 1,450.46 from the previous budget. Kalyana Lakshmi & Shaadi Mubarak are state-sponsored schemes the give the bride 1lack rupees. 6% increase in budget for these schemes show the priorities of the government.
"Marriage is given more importance in Telangana," says women activists in Hyderabad referring to the 25% cut in Telangana state education budget 2019-2019.
A cut in education budget means slashing of infrastructure, teachers' training as well as other innovative projects.
"Our schools are already in such sad shape. We can hang our heads in shame when we compare basic infrastructure - toilets, running water, compound walls, playgrounds etc. I don't know how many teachers' training program is happening in this State. We can certainly raise eyebrows on its entire possibility now! Investing in curriculum design, student workshops, and other projects, will all take a back seat," says Spurthi Kolipaka, a social worker.
�"The problem of school education always existed in Telangana. After state bifurcation, we thought now it is our government, and it will take care of our children. But look at the budget now. It shows the attitude of the government towards education and knowledge acquisition," Says Varsha Bhargavi, a social activist.
Retaining students has always been a challenge in Telangana schools. According to the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) data for the year 2016-17, released by the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA), the dropout rate between classes I and VIII almost doubled in the State in 2016-17 compared to the previous year.
"Retention rate of students in Telangana state, especially high school, is meagre. Girls from SC, ST and other minority communities barely make it. They are forced to drop school once they hit puberty and by 18 parents get them married off owing to the State-sponsored marriage schemes. Now to add incentive to this, the government has increased the budget for Kalyana Lakshmi & Shaadi Mubarak schemes," Ms Bhargavi added.
For the past two years, the focus of the Telangana government is majorly on water and welfare schemes. Majority of the budget amount is spent on projects like Kaleshwaram, pension scheme and Kalyan Lakshmi. And for the last six months, even the budget allocation for welfare schemes are getting delayed.
"The State has agreed it is in financial deficit and schemes are delayed. In such a scenario, the focus will shift to welfare schemes because they give immediate results to the government. Schemes like education and health require time to see the results. Even if you invest heavily in school infrastructure and quality teaching, it will take time to show the desired result. To immediately show that we are doing good and governance is working, welfare schemes are the best option" Sumanth Uppuluru State Lead - Andhra Pradesh & Telangana, Indus Action.
94% Telangana schools yet to implement RTE
Sec 12 (1) (c) of Right to Education Act (RTE) guarantees 25 per cent mandatory reservation for students from economically backward sections in all private schools. However, according to a central government study, 94 per cent of schools in Telangana state are yet to notify and implement the Act.
"In the census data of 2011, there are close to 10,000 schools which are eligible under the RTE scheme. Also, according to RTE, 60 per cent of the budget is covered by the centre. However, since the State has not notified the Act itself even here the budget spending is not happening." adds Mr Uppuluru.
"If the economy is slowing down, the cut can be from various other sections like state-imposed taxes on companies where there are forgoing taxes. Cutting down the education budget is like cutting down your foot. Welfare schemes are like begging balls. Why should you create dependency over the government? Instead, empower them through education," said Ms Bhargavi
24,000+ Teachers in need
In 2015, 15,000 students the Gatu Mandal of Mahbubnagar District wrote postcards to the chief justice of the High Court seeking their right to education. Gattu is a disconnected area and had no teacher to teach. Teachers were opting-out from the Mandal, and whoever stayed were taking almost eight classes a day. And this was affecting the quality of education. That is when the students wrote, and the High Court released an interim to the state government to appoint Vidya volunteers.��
Vidya volunteers were only temporary relief when the judgement was passed in 2015. However, today, there are around 9,500 vidya volunteers in the State working as temporary employees across the State.�
"Over the last years if you see the fund that goes into education usually pays out the teacher's salary. Meanwhile, there are 24,000 + vacant teacher's positions in Telangana. Vidya volunteers compensate these vacant seats in many schools. However, a Vidya volunteer only gets Rs 12,000 as monthly pay, which is hardly anything and most often the money gets delayed. This is directly affecting the quality of school education in the State," says Ms Bhargavi.�
"Technical education guarantees the students some job by the time they complete a diploma. That too took a hit with the new budget," adds Ms Bhargavi.�