Lies, Damned Lies & Statistics-- Education

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Press Release

Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi has been in the forefront of the NDA government in implementing the RSS agenda -- from astrology to rewriting history in the school text books. He has, also to his credit, the `achievement' of undermining research organisations like ICHR and ICSSR not to speak of the manner in which he is trying to run down the autonomy of premier institutions like National School of Planning and Architecture and Indian Institute of Managements. While all these dubious developments have been opposed by wide sections of the intelligentsia, the government has been making wild claims about expansion of education -- particularly on the question of universalisation.

We, from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), intend to nail down these outrageous claims of the `Shining India' campaign through the eighth of our study in the "Lies, damned lies and statistics" series.

                                                        Is India Really Shining?

                                                  Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

                                                     Perfidious Claims of the MHRD

v The policies of the NDA government vis-à-vis Education have been highly controversial. With a faithful swayamsevak like M.M.Joshi at the helm of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the agenda of saffronisation of education was pursued with full vigour over the past five years. From the rewriting of NCERT textbooks to the move to introduce astrology and karamkanda in universities, the MHRD has made relentless efforts to restructure the Indian education system according to the ideological needs of the Sangh Parivar. It is surprising therefore to find that the MHRD’s advertisement during the course of the ‘India Shining’ campaign revolves around more mundane issues rather than claiming credit for taking pathbreaking steps towards ‘spiritualising’ Indian education.

v The advertisement published by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in the national dailies has made tall claims regarding the ‘achievements’ of the government in the sphere of elementary education. It claims that three crores out-of-school children were brought back to schools since the inception of the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) in 2001, with expenditure incurred to the tune of Rs. 16,000 crores. The advertisement further claims that appointments of 10 lakhs new teachers and instructors were made during this period.

v It is worth recalling in this regard the apprehensions which the CPI (M) had shared with many others following the introduction of the 93rd (86th) Constitutional Amendment (which has since been enacted by the Lok Sabha as The Free and Compulsory Education Act in 2004) regarding the lack of any financial commitment made on the part of the Central government to materialise the goal of universal elementary education. The Sarva Siksha Abhiyan was touted as a “historic stride towards achieving the long cherished goal of Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE) through a time bound integrated approach, in partnership with State.” It was further stated by the government that the SSA would “change the face of the elementary education sector of the country” by providing “useful and quality elementary education to all children in the 6-14 age group by 2010”. (see However, on the basis of the actual financial allocations that have been made for the SSA, serious questions can be raised regarding the ‘achievements’ being claimed by the government.

v     According to official estimates, the proportion of out-of-school children in 1999-2000 was around 24 percent of the total population in 6-14 age group, which amounts to a figure between 4.7 to 5 crores according to the population estimates of the Technical Group on Population Projection (Planning Commission). The MHRD has claimed that 3 crores out of these nearly 5 crores out-of-school children have been brought back to school after spending Rs. 16,000 crore under the SSA. However, the Tapas Majumdar Committee appointed by the Union government had estimated the total financial commitment required to bring all Indian children in the 6-14 age group under the purview of school education to be Rs. 1,36,922 crores over a ten year period (1998-99 to 2007-08), which came to approximately 0.72 % of the estimated GDP during this period. The year-wise estimates are given in the table below.
                                      Financial Commitment Needed for
           Universalisation of Elementary Education during 1998-99 to 2007-08
(in Rs. crores)
(in Rs. Crore)
(in Rs. Crore)
total expenditure as % of GDP
           Source: India Education Report, A Profile of Basic Education, NIEPA
 The government is claiming that it has achieved over 60% (i.e. 3 crores out of nearly 5 crores out-of-school children brought back to school) of the target in universalising elementary education by spending only 0.11% (Rs.16,000 crores spent as against Rs. 1,396,922 crores suggested by the Tapas Majumdar Committee) of the expenditure estimated by the Tapas Majumdar Committee. This is nothing but a gigantic fraud being played by the government to conceal its sheer lack of commitment towards universalising elementary education. The government was expected to spend Rs.47,100 up till 2003-04 in order to be on target for the achievement of universal elementary education by 2008. In reality, it has only spent around 34% of that amount.
v     In its Interim Budget of 2004 the government has claimed that between 2001 to February 2004 it has approved the opening of 93,028 new schools, the construction of 50,992 new school buildings and 1,09,399 additional class rooms with 1,06,920 toilets and 67,803 drinking water sources. The Selected Educational Statistics published by the MHRD suggests that the number of existing schools till 2000 was 8,45,007. The government’s claim amounts to suggesting a highly commendable increase in the number of schools in the country by 11% in the last three years. However, while answering to a question asked by Member of Parliament Prof. M. M. Agarwal in the Rajya Sabha on 2nd May 2003, the Minister concerned stated that on an average the government has spent Rs. 40.25 lakhs for building each school under the SSA. Even if we assume that the entire amount of Rs. 16,000 crores spent under the SSA have been spent only on constructing new school buildings, then the government could have built only around 39,750 new school buildings and not 50,992 as claimed in the Interim Budget.
v     So far we have exposed the hollowness of the claims made by the government while assuming that the government has actually spent Rs.16,000 crores on the SSA. But has the government actually spent that amount? The total allocation for the SSA has been to the tune of Rs. 3078.11 crores up to 21st February 2003 according to the MHRD Annual Report of 2002-03. If the Central allocation of Rs. 2732.32 crores for 2003-04 under the SSA is added to the earlier amount, the total figure stands at Rs. 5810.43 crores. This is only around one third of the claimed Rs. 16,000 crores spent on the SSA. Whom is the government trying to fool? Does the government mean to say that it has spent the balance amount without accounting for it in the budget documents? Otherwise, why is there no information about it in any of the government documents?
v     The attitude of the NDA government towards higher education has been completely negative. The budgetary allocation for higher education has declined in absolute terms during the tenure of this government. While the number of students going for higher education in our country has been increasing steadily in absolute numbers, the withdrawal of state support to higher education is completely unjustifiable.
   Source: Budget Documents, Demand for Grants, MHRD
Moreover, if the Model Act introduced by the UGC last year is implemented, it would have serious implications for the future of higher education in our country. The Model Act would pave the way for drastic withdrawal of state funding as well as privatisation of the university education.
v     In the field of technical education, the NDA government has only facilitated the unbridled mushrooming of private institutions, without any attempt to regulate their astronomical fees and reckless profiteering. In the advertisement published by the MHRD, the government has claimed an increase in the number of technical institutions by 116%, number of seats in such institutions by 165%, and intake of students in IITs by 66%. There has indeed been a phenomenal increase in the number of engineering degree colleges from 732 in 1998-99 to 1234 in 2003-04. But out of those 502 new colleges, 488 colleges have been established in the private sector only.
Growth of Degree Engineering Colleges over the last five years
Total available Colleges in 1998-99
Colleges Established during last five years
Total Available Colleges in 2003-04
% Increase in last five years
     Source: AICTE List of Degree Engineering Colleges available at 
While only 14 new government engineering colleges were built between 1998 and 2003-04, the number of private colleges almost doubled from 571 to 1059 during the same period. Such a disproportionate expansion of private engineering colleges was a direct fallout of the policy of commercialisation of education pursued by the government which was greatly aided by the Supreme Court verdict allowing private institutions to charge arbitrary fees without the fear of government interference. The fees of those private engineering colleges are so high that it discourages the students coming from poor backgrounds to opt for engineering education. Even the fees charged for the so-called free seats in these private institutions are well beyond the reach of an average Indian family.
Approximate Fees charged for so-called free seats
 in Private Engineering Colleges in Selected States
Fees charged
for a Free Seat
Rs. 12,590
Andhra Pradesh
Rs. 22,000
Rs. 40,000
Rs. 35,000
Rs. 10,000
                                       *Before Supreme Court Verdic
Source: From a study undertaken by the Students’ Federation of India, published in the Students Struggle, July 2003.