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Cost of new quotas: Rs 165 billion and counting

By George Iype
August 08, 2006 14:38 IST
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The United Progressive Alliance government's decision to introduce 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes in higher educational institutions will cost the exchequer Rs 16,563.34 crore, or Rs 165.63 billion.

The Oversight Committee -- set up to draw up a roadmap for the new quota regime and headed by former Karnataka chief minister M Veerappa Moily -- that submitted its interim report to the Prime Minister's Office last week has projected the estimated expenditure spread over a period of five years to implement the new reservation policy.

Out of this amount, the non-recurring component should be Rs 9,092.96 crore (Rs 90.92 billion), and recurring component for the Eleventh Plan period should be Rs 7,470.38 crore (Rs 74.70 billion).

After the Eleventh Plan period, the expenditure will move over to the non-Plan side.

The interim report of the Committee says there is certainly a case for increasing the Five Year Plan and budgetary allocations to the higher education sector.

The money is going to be needed for:

  • Creating more education infrastructure to admit more students. That means for new college and hostel buildings, additional laboratories, library facilities, books, furniture and equipment, computer laboratories, campus wireless connectivity, video conferencing and information technology enabled classrooms.
  • Appointment of new faculty members, reworking their remuneration, reorientation of relevant courses and strengthening research capacity of institutions.

'These quantitative estimates have to taken as thumb-rule projections and will need to go through the normal vetting and analysis by the Planning Commission and Finance Ministry,' the interim report says.

'The additional resources to be generated to give effect to the policy decision of reservation should not be a one-time affair. It should be ensured that the higher education sector is not starved of funds, particularly as a key role has to be played by government institutions and students should not be deprived of education on account of limited resources,' it stresses.

The report also says a mechanism for funding higher education through loans and scholarships would have to be looked at for poor students.

The report points out that funding for higher education in India is extremely low.

'India spends only 0.37 per cent of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) on higher education. That being the case, access to the institutions of higher learning in India is limited. Only 8 per cent of the relevant age group go to these institutions. This compares poorly with the experience of many developing countries where the corresponding number is between 20 to 25 per cent,' the report notes.

Therefore, it says, what is needed is a quantum leap in terms of opportunity for access to these institutions of higher learning.

'Clearly, our approach should be to create an environment in which higher education becomes available to almost everyone who seeks it,' the report says.

'The fact remains that social change is always a difficult hurdle to negotiate,' the report says. 'It has taken advanced countries many years to cross the hurdles of territorial and social backwardness. Long-term vision of excellence should not be held hostage to short-term gains, however attractive they may be.'

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George Iype