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  • Union budget 2003: Mixed news for education

    In some good news for those paying for their children’s schooling, Union budget 2003 provides tax relief to parents by bringing school fees and allied expenses, up to Rs 12,000 per two children per family, under Section 88 of the Income Tax Act.

    “Education expenses up to Rs 12,000 per child for two children in a family will be eligible for rebate under Section 88 of the Income Tax Act,” said finance minister Jaswant Singh.

    However, while the HRD ministry’s timely intervention has helped stall a cut in elementary education and higher education outlay, in actual terms there is no gain either.

    The elementary education allocation for 2003-2004 remains stagnant at Rs 4,900 crore, as against Rs 7,960 crore estimated by the Planning Commission, and Rs 8,000 crore projected by the HRD ministry. This year’s allocation is exactly the same as that for the last fiscal year.

    “In real terms, the budgetary allocation is not just low, it is insufficient. It will certainly put the HRD ministry, which takes care of the universalisation of education programme, in a major fix,” an official from the elementary education department said.

    Doubts have also been raised about whether the government was serious about supporting education, as “these were symptoms of the government’s gradual withdrawal from the education sector,” said Sanjiv Kaura, a National Alliance For the Right to Education ( NAFRE) spokesperson. Kaura pointed out that the tax benefit given for children’s education expenses runs contrary to the 93rd Amendment Act, which makes education a fundamental right for children within the 6-14 age group.

    For secondary and higher education, the outlay is no better than last year’s. It has been kept at Rs 2,125 crore for 2003-2004 -- not a paisa more than the amount for 2002-2003 -- as against the projected requirement of Rs 3,197.81 crore. However, the department of higher education expects some remedial measures in the form of supplementary grants.

    Source: The Indian Express

    March 1, 2003

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