The bulk of the resources must go to the UPA Government's eight flagship programmes: Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, Mid-day Meal Scheme, Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission, Total Sanitation Campaign, National Rural Health Mission, Integrated Child Development Services, National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. In 2005-06, Gross Budgetary Support (GBS) for the Plan was Rs 143,497 crore. Of this, support to the Central Plan was Rs 110,385 crore. I propose to increase both allocations substantially. GBS for 2006-07 has been fixed at Rs 172,728 crore, representing an increase of 20.4 per cent. Out of this, the Central Plan will receive a support of Rs 1,31,285 crore. The National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREG) scheme is the primary instrument to combat rural unemployment and hunger poverty. For 2006-07, the total allocation for rural employment will be Rs 14,300 crore. As there is a legal guarantee of employment under the NREG Act, more funds will be provided according to need.

Education and health will continue to enjoy primacy. For 2006-07, the allocation for education has been enhanced by 31.5 per cent to Rs 24,115 crore and for health and family welfare by 22.0 per cent to Rs 12,546 crore. 16. On the eight flagship programmes, the total allocation in 2005-06 was Rs 34,927 crore.

More schools and teachers

Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) has recorded remarkable progress in 2005-06 in terms of new schools, additional classrooms and additional teachers. Two independent surveys show that 93 per cent of the children in the age group 6-14 years are in school, and the number of children not in school has come down to about one crore. Recognising good performance, I propose to increase the outlay for SSA from Rs 7,156 crore to Rs 10,041 crore in 2006-07. Five lakh additional classrooms will be constructed and 150,000 more teachers will be appointed. In 2006-07, we shall transfer Rs 8,746 crore to the Prarambhik Siksha Kosh from the revenues raised through the education cess.12 crore children are now covered under the Mid-day Meal Scheme, which is the largest school lunch programme in the world. I propose to enhance the allocation from Rs 3,010 crore to Rs 4,813 crore in 2006-07.

Ensuring drinking water, sanitation

The target for the current year for drinking water supply will be completed, and 56,270 habitations and 140,000 schools will be covered. Apart from non-coverage, there is the persistent problem of slippage. The strategy to tackle both includes conservation, better operational management, and water quality monitoring and capacity building at the village level. The Government will provide non-recurring assistance of Rs 213 crore in 2006-07 for setting up district-level water testing laboratories and field-level water testing kits. I propose to increase the provision for the Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission from Rs 3,645 crore to Rs 4,680 crore next year. I also propose to increase the provision for the Rural Sanitation Campaign from Rs 630 crore to Rs 720 crore in 2006-07.

Health, not just wealth

The National Rural Health Mission was launched on April 12, 2005. I am confident that in 2006-07 more than 2,00,000 Associated Social Health Activists (ASHA) will be fully functional and over 1,000 block level community health centres will provide round the clock services. I have increased the allocation for NRHM from Rs 6,553 crore to Rs 8,207 crore for the next year. The WHO standard defining `elimination of leprosy' is one case per 10,000 population. I am happy to announce that the goal of eliminating leprosy was reached in December, 2005. Continuing the vigorous immunization programme, we hope to eliminate polio too from the country by December 2007.

Child development services

We have expanded the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme and created an additional 188,168 centres. Supplementary nutrition is the most important component of the scheme. Beginning this year, the Centre is assisting the States to the extent of 50 per cent of the actual expenditure incurred for supplementary nutrition or 50 per cent of the cost norms, whichever is less. The cost to the Centre this year is estimated at Rs 1,500 crore, and I propose to increase this assistance to Rs 1,700 crore for 2006-07. The total allocation for ICDS is being increased from Rs 3,315 crore to Rs 4,087 crore.

More pension, better delivery

Old age pensions are granted under the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) to destitute persons above the age of 65 years at Rs 75 per month. This is woefully inadequate. I propose to increase the pension to Rs 200 per month. I have provided Rs 1,430 crore for 2006-07 and additional funds, if required, will be provided during the course of the year. I would urge State Governments to make an equal contribution from their resources so that a destitute pensioner would get at least Rs 400 per month. I also propose to work with the Department of Posts and the banks to establish, within two years, a system under which the pension will be credited directly to the account of the beneficiary in a post office or a bank.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 1, 2006)
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