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Budget 2006-07: Why is Mr Arjun Singh angry?

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, Feb 26 Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh 'ko gussa kyon aa raha hai (why is Mr Arjun Singh angry?).

The veteran politician is unhappy that the allocation of funds to his Ministry in the Gross Budgetary Support (GBS) in the 2006-07 Budget is insufficient.

Informed sources say after having grabbed a lion's share in the GBS under the 'Sarva Siksha Abhiyan' programme with an allocation of Rs 11,000 crores, Mr Arjun Singh has communicated to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that a total allocation of Rs 16,000 to the Ministry of Human Resource Development was not in adherence to the propriety of things as it included the education cess amount.

Mr Singh has demanded that there needs to be an additionality to the cess amount, which would be kept in 'Prarambik Shiksha Kosh' , a dedicated fund, and his Ministry would utilise it after having exhausted the GBS.

The Department of Elementary Literacy had originally demanded Rs 21,062 crore, but because of the resource crunch the HRD Department has been allocated only Rs 16,000 crore.

In the run up to the GBS finalisation, a number of Cabinet Ministers have protested at smaller allocations than what they have demanded being granted to them. These include Minister for North East Affairs P R Kyndiah, Minister for Heavy Industries Santosh Mohan Dev, and Labour Minister Chandrashekhar Rao. These stalwarts have expressed their displeasure at the final allocations conveyed to them, saying that these final figures would jeopardise the UPA governments commitments to the National Common Minimum Programme initiatives.

Mr Arjun Singh's strong reaction follows his earlier protests from his Ministry that Secondary Education was being given a rough deal, despite being in a precarious situation.

The Minister has been arguing that an all out effort to support SSA without a commensurate increase in other areas would put pressure on secondary education and there exists a wid gap between the growing demand and supply for infarstructure required for secondary education.

Observers closely watching in drama to the run up to the Budget, say Mr Arjun Singh's weight in the Congress party, is at stke.

The saga of fixing the GBS and Budget Estimates started much earlier this year as compared to yesteryears. Parleys in this regard commenced in mid-October with differences being wide in the requirements estimated by the concerned Ministries, the Planning Commission and the Finance Ministry. The sources said in October the Finance Minister indicated that not more than a 15 per cent increase was possible in the GBS. This put the Planning Commission on alert as it felt a much higher Budgetary support was needed in view of the funding requirements given the thrust of the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) on mammoth social sector projects.

An internal exercise brought out that the Ministries had pitched for a GBS of Rs 2,13,000 crore.

The Planning Commission worked out a Budgetary support of Rs 1,87,000 crore and the Finance Ministry suggested that GBS should be kept at Rs 1,57,000 crore because of the constraints imposed by the Fiscal Responsibility and Budgetary Management (FRBM) Act.

The matter was then sorted out at three meetings between Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Mr Chidambaram and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

UNI

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