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Education cess: Where is the money going?
Sreelatha Menon in New Delhi
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March 12, 2008 11:34 IST
The education cess is rapidly outstripping the Budget allocations for primary education with the latter getting smaller and smaller each year with the allocation for this year even less than 2004-05 when there was no cess.

A comparison with allocations made before the 2 per cent primary education cess was introduced in the Budget of 2004-05 shows how the funds have been falling ever since.

The Budget allocations for primary education last year, according to the revised estimates, was Rs 18,439 crore (Rs 184.39 billion).

Of this, mid-day meal programme and Sarva Siksha Abhiyan account for Rs 11,128 crore (Rs 111.28 billion). The latter amount was fully paid by the primary education cess of Rs 12,998 crore (Rs 129.98 billion).

So, the government's contribution for primary education in 2007-08 was Rs 5,441 crore (Rs 54.41 billion).

In the 2008-09 Budget, the share of cess in the primary education allocation of Rs 19,777 crore (Rs 197.77 billion) is Rs 14,844 crore (Rs 148.44 billion).

If allocations for primary education before the introduction of cess are considered, then the figures are higher.

In 2003-04, the government's revised estimate for primary education was Rs 5,219 crore (Rs 52.19 billion). In the following year when cess was introduced, the government spent just Rs 2,317 crore (Rs 23.17 billlion).

In 2005-06, the amount spent on primary education other than the cess remained low at Rs 4,244 crore (Rs 42.44 billion). In the 2008-09 Budget, the allocation minus the cess is just Rs 4,933 crore (Rs 49.33 billion), much lower than what the government spent five years ago.

"How does it matter? It makes no difference if the government spends more out of cess and less out of other funds also derived from the people as taxes," said S K Ray, finance advisor in the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Any answers?

Where does the secondary education cess of 1 per cent that has been levied for the last two years go?

The allocations for secondary education in this year's Budget do not reflect the cess anywhere, while the primary education cess of 2 per cent is not reflected in toto.

The total amount of cess collected, according to the government's Budget documents on tax collections during 2007-08, was Rs 2,210 crore (Rs 22.10 billion) and the secondary education cess for 2008-09 is Rs 2,480 crore (Rs 24.80 billion).

The Ministry of Human Resource Development has been allocated Rs 5,139.70 crore (Rs 51.39 billion) for secondary education in 2008-09.

However, ministry officials admit that the Budget allocations do not mention secondary education cess anywhere or specify under what head it is spent either last year or this year.

Finance Advisor S K Ray said, "It may not be shown in the Budget allocations, but it is coming to the ministry and is being spent along with the rest of the money."

The revised Budget allocation for secondary allocation last year was Rs 1,472 crore (Rs 14.72 billion), which the secondary cess collected was more at Rs 2,210 crore (Rs 22.10 billion). This mean that the cess took care of the entire government programme for secondary education, leaving some funds in balance.

There are other discrepancies in the government's collections and expenditure numbers. Revised estimates for last year show allocations of primary education cess of Rs 11,128 crore (Rs 111.28 billion) accruing to education programmes through the Prathmik Shiksha Kosh. But the sum of receipts of all the primary cess collections in various departments reflected in Budget documents show an amount that is far greater -- Rs 12,998 crore (Rs 129.98 billion).

Similarly, this Budget gives a figure of Rs 12,817 crore (Rs 128.17 billion) as money coming from primary education cess. But the total of the collections from all the heads like corporation tax, import duties and excise duties give a figure of Rs 14,844 crore (Rs 148.44 billion) in the Receipts Budget documents. Officials in the ministry have no explanation for this.

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