Cong says it is a mixture of unfinished assurances from previous budgetsPanaji: The opposition political parties on Wednesday said that the state Budget 2022-23 presented by the Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has “no relief” for the common man.Senior Congress leader and Margao MLA Digambar Kamat said that the Budget is a “mixture” of “unfinished” assurances from the previous budgets presented by Sawant.“This is a dream budget but very difficult to implement. From where will the funds come? The action-taken report presented by the Chief Minister on the 2021-22 Budget reveals that 56% of the announcements were not implemented. Budget 2022-23 is a repeat of announcements made in the previous budgets,” Kamat said while interacting with media persons.Congress’ Mormugao MLA Sankalp Amonkar said that the Budget is “directionless” and has nothing to offer for the common man.Terming the Budget anti-common man, AAP’s Benaulim MLA Venzy Viegas said there is no announcement to give relief to the common man from the rising petrol and diesel prices.Revolutionary Goans’ St. Andre MLA Viresh Borkar claimed that the 2022-23 budget presented by the Chief Minister Pramod Sawant is “very similar” to that of the last financial budget.“When you table the Budget then it is you who should ensure its implementation. From the last budget only 44% of the proposals were completed. Applications of many schemes are pending before the different government departments. I demand the government to clear them immediately and provide benefits to Goans,” Borkar said.Congress’ Quepem MLA Altone D’Costa said that the Budget has given a total miss to agriculture sector.“I demand that the minimum support price for cashew be raised to `160 per kg from the current `120,” D’Costa said.Congress’ Cuncolim MLA Yuri Alemao said that the Budget speech of Chief Minister only mentions about renovation of the Patradevi Martyrs Memorial and he has “conveniently” forgotten the Martyrs Memorial at Cuncolim and Assolna.Congress’ Santa Cruz MLA Rodolfo Fernandes pointed out that the government has failed to bring in non-polluted employment-oriented industries.
By D. M. DeshpandeTwo areas that are worst hit by the pandemic are education and employment. More than two years of learning loss is difficult to quantify and even more difficult to understand the long term implications of the same on our youth and the society.As schools and colleges begin to open up for offline classes, there will be stiff challenges to make up for the lost time and opportunity. While problems in Indian education have persisted for long, the union Budget 2022 would not have possibly given a quick fix solution. Yet, it was hoped that the central government would do its bit, show a direction and vision so as to come out of what can only be termed as an educational crisis.Instead, on perusal of budget proposals pertaining to education, one gets an impression that going digital will solve all the problems, real and imaginary, in education. Alas, that is not the case.Studies show that all the radios, TV’s, computers and mobile phones given to schools and colleges have not helped to change the educational outcomes at both schools and at the level of colleges. The pandemic of the last two years has shown that access to internet based learning is not available to a large majority of students.The problem gets worse in rural areas and when it comes to the question of girls and children from socially deprived backgrounds. Challenges are at the individual and institutional level. At institutional level, IT infrastructure is not in place in most places barring metros and a few affluent urban pockets.At individual level, studies have shown that internet packages are unaffordable, only one mobile phone in the family et al. In a multi-state study Azim Premji University found that the students failed to learn new concepts in their online classes. Further they forgot 60 to 90 per cent of what was taught to them earlier.Unlike in the west, we have just a few studies that are conducted. All of them point out that digital can only supplement physical, conventional, offline learning. It is good that under e-Vidya more dedicated TV channels will come up that will devise content and deliver in vernacular languages from classes 1 to 12th. But this can only be a supplement not a substitute.This is not to relegate the importance of digital mode in the educational delivery process. Rather, it is to look objectively and pragmatically at issues and challenges that confront the Indian educational system. In school education challenges lie in providing qualified and competent teachers, learning resources and basic physical infrastructure. How to make schools inclusive is a challenge associated with schools in urban areas. While there are laws, rules and regulations that have made it non-negotiable, yet we have schools that are ‘elitist’.Even in higher education, going gung ho on digital mode is not the right thing to do. There is certainly space for a digital university as announced in the budget. But to position it as a magic wand that solves all our problems is not right. It is not even a solution for a system that is held to ransom by the pandemic.Our students have lost out on peer learning, interactive learning, social connect and networking. Especially for our students coming from poor socio-economic backgrounds, colleges are not just places of learning skills and new subjects, rather, they are also places where they hone their social skills that make up for their deficient social capital at home. Learning losses are not limited to schools alone.A Teamlease survey during the ongoing pandemic shows that learning losses are between 40 to 60 per cent which is thrice when compared to G7 nations. It may take up to three years to make good this loss.There was no need to reinvent the wheel, all over again. The NEP 2020 is a comprehensive document prepared at the initiative of the government. Setting up a world class higher educational institution (HEI) in every district is enshrined in NEP. The budget does not take cognizance of it.Similarly, there are ambitious plans for allocating more funds for research in HEI’s. The NEP suggests structural changes in organizations that are currently given the regulatory responsibility of higher education. All this and many more need enhanced funding but in the budget 2022, increase in allocation for education is marginal, just about 11 per cent, that is, Rs 1.04 lakh crores.Most of it goes in just paying out salaries. Just to put it in perspective, the size of the expenditure budget is nearly Rs 40 lakh crores. Surprisingly, the current year’s estimates have been revised downwards for education. It means that the concerned ministries and departments were not able to spend amounts allocated to them. This, at a time when there is a crying need for investments in the sector. Clearly, education is not a priority notwithstanding what is said and written often.Continuing with the past, it is proposed to maintain 60:40 ratio between school and higher education. So, the allocation to school education in 2022-23 is Rs 63,449 crores and higher education Rs 40,828 crores. There is neither an attempt nor a mention of public spending of 6 per cent of GDP on education.True, combating COVID 19 needs the government’s resources. But isn’t this Budget led by capital expenditure? Even in education there is a huge need for creating infrastructure especially in public space. That would have also produced the same spinoffs of more employment, income and demand. One hopes that in the guise of digitization, there is no attempt to undermine whatever little is left of public education in India.The author has four decades of experience in higher education teaching and research. He is the former first vice-chancellor of ISBM University, Chhattisgarh.