Whose knell does the budget toll

For the past days every one had been talking about budget 2015. Is it pro rich; pro poor? I do not know and frankly do not care. We have learnt over the decades to deal with each budget and carry on our lives as best we can. We accept with cynicism the new projects and programmes knowing that they will never be truly implemented but simply make some richer. The cynicism is always tinted with a dash of sadness as some of the said programmes, schemes or whatever else they are called could make the much needed difference for those who have learnt to survive with courage and dignity. I have been privy to some instances when schemes meant for a particular beneficiary never reach the said beneficiary as there is always some administrative hitch. Or simply because the said beneficiary does not have the means to pay the bribe. So budget time for me is just another day, week or month.

This year however my blood ran cold when I was told that the Finance Minister had slashed the school education budget by a whopping 10% and allocated more funds to higher education. I could hear the door slam shut in he face of this little girl and millions like her who are waiting to enter the gates of a school. The budgetary shift from school to higher education tolls the knell of the dreams of millions of poor children in India for whom state run schools are the only hope. I agree with a commentator who said: “Government, according to me, should have focused more on school sector and allowed more private play in higher education. In that count, its a missed opportunity”.

Most, if not all, of the project why children, attend state run schools as this is the only option they have. Their families do not have the means to get them enrolled in a quality i.e public school. In spite of all the talk of ending corruption, most private schools demand a cash contribution that is never acknowledged, and then you need to pay the actual fees which are quite substantial during admission as you need to pay all sort of development and other one time charges. I know of two examples where the bribe or donation was 15K in one school and 20 in the other and the admission fee was 25K in one and a whopping 60 in the other. How can a parent who ears the minimum wage afford these fees. And tough he or she is aware of the difference of quality in s state run and public school, he knows he has no option.

By not addressing the issue of improving the quality of ALL state run schools, the government has ensured that children like the little girl in the picture will never be able to accede to the higher education that is now getting a shot in the arm. Poor child, it will be nothing short of a miracle if she finishes school. And even if she does, she will need have the marks required to enter an affordable institution of higher learning. Those are reserved for children from better homes. Children like her will have to wait for the day when some kind soul in the right position decided to make every single school in the land  a centre of excellence.

Will that happen? Only the God of Lesser Children knows.