Indian Budget 2004-05
Full Text of P. Chidambaram, Minister of Finance, Budget Speech(July 8, 2004)
VI. EDUCATION AND HEALTH
22. In my scheme of things, no issue enjoys a higher priority than providing basic education to all children. The NCMP mandates Government to levy an education cess. I propose to levy a cess of 2 per cent. The new cess will yield about Rs.4000 - 5000 crore in a full year. The whole of the amount collected as cess will be earmarked for education, which will naturally include providing a nutritious cooked midday meal. If primary education and the nutritious cooked meal scheme can work hand in hand, I believe there will be a new dawn for the poor children of India.
23. I am concerned about the quality of technical education in the country. Lest I be misunderstood, I am not referring to the IITs but to the ITIs. ITIs are the training ground for skilled manpower. The skills imparted by ITIs must keep pace with the technological demands of industry and the expanding universe of knowledge. There is only one benchmark for our technicians – and that is the world standard. In order to produce technicians of world standard, Government proposes to launch a programme in the Central sector to upgrade 500 ITIs over the next 5 years at the rate of 100 ITIs a year. Appropriate infrastructure and equipment will be provided, the syllabi will be upgraded and new trades will be introduced. This is an area where I welcome Chambers of Commerce and Industry to join hands with the Government and create a public-private partnership model for designing and implementing the scheme. The selection of the ITIs will be done in consultation with the State Governments.
24. An education loan scheme has been in operation since April 2001 under which loans up to Rs.7.50 lakh and Rs.15 lakh are available for professional courses within the country and abroad, respectively. The requirement of collateral was dispensed with for loans up to Rs.4 lakh. I am happy to say that commercial banks have now agreed to waive the need for collateral for loans up to Rs.7.5 lakh, if a satisfactory guarantee is provided on behalf of the student. Thus, no student admitted to any professional course, including courses in IITs, IIMs and medical colleges, will be deprived of the opportunity to study because of lack of funds.
25. Access to medical care is not easily available to the poor. The Universal Health Insurance Scheme (UHIS) now in operation is skewed in favour of the non-poor. As a result, only a very small number of families below the poverty line (BPL) – actually 11,408 till May, 2004 – have been covered. Although the premiums are low, BPL families seem to avoid the scheme due to their inability to pay the premium. In its present design, the scheme may not be sustainable. I, therefore, propose to redesign the scheme and make it exclusive for persons and families below the poverty line. The revised premium would be Rs.165 for individuals, Rs.248 for a family of five and Rs.330 for a family of seven, without any reduction in benefits. To offset the reduction in premium, I propose to enhance the premium subsidy from Rs.100 at present to Rs.200 for an individual, Rs.300 for a family of five and Rs.400 for a family of seven. The cost to the exchequer will be Rs.40 crore in a full year. If the money is fully spent, the number insured will rise to about 10 lakh.
26. In addition to the above, I propose to introduce a new Group Health Insurance Scheme through public sector non-life insurance companies. The insured will be members of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and other credit linked groups (CLGs) who avail of loans from banks or cooperative institutions. Under the group health insurance scheme, the premium will be Rs.120 per person, but the insurance cover would be for a sum of Rs.10,000.
27. The NCMP also rightly emphasizes the need for an accelerated AIDS control programme. Bold and determined efforts need to be made to achieve zero-level growth of HIV/AIDS. These will include improved surveillance through the setting up of more sentinel sites and use of primary health centres to monitor HIV/AIDS, public awareness campaigns, promotion of safe sex through the use of condoms, prevention of drug abuse and distribution of disposable syringes. The allocation for prevention and control of HIV/AIDS is Rs. 259 crore.