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How is the two per cent education cess being spent?

Sunday 9 January 2005, by SEETHALAKSHMI*S

BANGALORE: Ever wondered where the two-per cent education cess you are paying along with cellphone bills, restaurant bills and even income-tax is going?

Six months after the Centre introduced the cess to fund the primary education sector, there is utter confusion on how it is spent, though tax-payers have been coughing up the cess from July 2004.

For the record, the Union Finance ministry has so far collected Rs 2,273 crore as education cess.

But state education departments are in the dark. "There is no specific planning nor any indication on how the money collected by way of cess will trickle down, or benefit the children. We have no specific directions on taking up projects to strengthen primary education sector. No meetings have taken place between state education departments or the Centre to specify the projects that will be taken up with this money," education department officials told The Times of India.

However, a letter from the Centre to Karnataka that the latter would meet Re one of the Rs 1.31 spent on each child for the midday meal scheme has come as a boon to the state education department. Hitherto, the state government has been spending Rs 1.31 per day per child on 46 lakh primary school children.

This again, is an assumption that the money is being reimbursed from the education cess.

"We do not know if the money is the education cess or the earlier promise from the Centre that they would foot the bill for the midday meal scheme for states," officials said.

"Beginning September 2004, the Centre has told us that they would bear Re one of the Rs 1.31 per day per child. The state will save Rs 78 crore due to this, as we will spend only 31 paise per day per child," commissioner for public instruction Sanjiv Kumar said.

With no clear guidelines on how the cess collected from the public is being used, different projects are being approved for different states.

While schemes for Sarva Siksha Abhiyan to achieve universal education is being granted for some states, a unique project to narrow gender gap in primary education has been approved for Karnataka.

See online : The Times of India

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