Off-centre | How Education Spending in India is Much More Than We Think

I have written recently a series of articles explaining how the government’s expenditure on education is by no means confined to the Ministry of Education. Each and every of the 28 states and 9 union territories has an education budget. What is more, even when it comes to the Union government, practically every ministry spends on education.

In Analysis of Budgeted Expenditure on Education, 2017-18 to 2019-20, a report published in 2022, facts and figures are detailed. A real eye-opener, this report makes us wonder where these thousands of crores of public money are being spent by different ministries, in addition, of course, to the massive budget of close to Rs 1.13 crore allocated to the Siksha Mantralaya or Ministry of Education itself.

Who are the big spenders apart from and in addition to the Education Ministry? The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare spends Rs 8,360 crore, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Rs 9,055 crore, Ministry of Women & Child Development a colossal Rs 20,283 crore, over twice the amount allotted to Health and Family Welfare. But the greatest largesse is bestowed on the Ministry of Skill Development & Training — a whopping Rs 29,226 crore. The Ministry of Minority affairs has a separate education budget of Rs 2,869 crore, while the Ministry of Tribal Affairs has over Rs 2,158 crore to spend. The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, has almost seven times as much money to spend, some Rs 14,958 crore. Even the Ministry of Railways spends an incredible Rs 2,439 crore on education. How are these ministries spending so much money on education? Where is the money being spent? Shouldn’t the citizen and taxpayer have a right to know?

The Ministry of Science and Technology has Rs 12,976 crore at its disposal although the IITs and NIITs are now funded by the Ministry of Education. Speaking of science, the Ministry of Space has an allocation of over Rs. 5874 crores and Department of Atomic Energy over Rs 14,958 crore. The Ministry of AYUSH has an education budget of over a thousand crores, the Ministry of Earth Sciences Rs 1,765 crore, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy Rs 199 crore, Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas Rs 31 crore. Shouldn’t all the Science and Technology expenditure on education be under one ministry or department?

Even ministries where you would not expect spending on education have allocations of hundreds of crores. Consider the Department of Post, which has over Rs 173 crore allotted to it. What about the Ministry of Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers? Its education budget is over Rs 113 crore. The Ministry of Civil Aviation spends nearly Rs 17 crore; the Ministry of Coal, Rs 25 crore; the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Rs 34 crore; the Ministry of Communication nearly Rs 46 crore; the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution almost Rs 50 crore; the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Rs 99 crore; the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Rs 533 crore; the Ministry of External Affairs, Rs 25 crore; the Ministry of Finance, Rs 7 crore; the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Rs 19 crore.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has a considerable education budget of Rs 777 crore. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development Rs 28 crore, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting Rs 126 crore, Ministry of Jal Shakti Rs 332 crore, Ministry of Labour & Employment Rs 70 crore, Ministry of Law and Justice Rs 80 crore, Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises nearly Rs 580 crore, Ministry of Mines Rs 53 crore, Ministry of Personnel, Personnel Grievances & Pension Rs 211 crore, Ministry of Power Rs 200 crore, Ministry of Road Transport & Highways Rs 478 crore, Ministry of Rural Development Rs 816 crore, Ministry of Shipping Rs 10 crore, Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation Rs 276 crore, Ministry of Textiles Rs 86 crore, and Ministry of Tourism almost Rs 6 crore. Even the Department of Food Processing Industries has an education budget of over Rs 68 crores.

Over and above these ministerial budgets, the NITI Ayog has close to Rs 15,000 crore to spend on education. The grand total for 2019-2020 is Rs 2,27,080 crore, with the Ministry of Education contributing Rs 92,733 crore and the other ministries and departments of the Union government Rs 1,34,347. If we look at the current budget, we will notice that the money allocated to the Education Ministry has gone up from Rs 92,733 crore to Rs 1,12,898.97 crore. This is an increase of about 22%. If the spends by the other ministries are also considered to have gone up by a similar margin, then what the other ministries will spend will be close to Rs 1.65 lakh crore. The total of the Central government expenditure will thus be over Rs 2.75 lakh crore. This does not include what the states have spent.

Where and how is this massive amount being spent? Again, with this kind of spending, we should be seeing results of an order of magnitude which are staggering. Is that really happening? Evidentially and evidently not. What is to be done? It is questions such as these that we shall examine next in this series.

[To be continued]

The writer is an author, columnist and professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.

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