Speech by Rahul Gandhi Budget, 2006-2007

By: pressbrief | Posted: 10th June 2010

Mr. Speaker Sir, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak in support of the Budget 2006-2007.
It is my understanding that this House may not find the time to discuss Demands for Grants for Human Resource Development. Therefore, Sir, I have taken the liberty to focus on education in the general debate.
Today, India is emerging as a global power. We are poised to grow at 8 percent. This achievement is built on the dreams of millions of people. It is built on the dreams of our leaders. It is built on the dreams of our teachers. But most importantly, it is built on the aspirations of our students.
Equally, we owe our success to our toiling masses, to our farmers and workers. I salute them. But it is not enough to salute them. We must work for an India where a son does not remain tied to his father's past, where a daughter has the opportunity to do something her mother could only dream of Education is the key to achieving this.
Sir, as I travel around the country, I have come to realise that education is not about schools, colleges or universities. It is about dreams and aspirations. A successful education system must do two things. It must allow all young Indians to dream, and it must teach them the skills to turn those dreams into reality.
About a year ago I visited a village school. I walked up to one of the children and asked him, "Beta bade hokar kya bano ge?" The silent stare I got in reply disturbed me. In school after school, I have asked this question and got no answer. Many students, teachers and parents believe that our school system is a dead-end. In village after village, there are children who don't have the opportunity to go to school. Many parents are convinced only the rich can go to university. As I speak, Sir, our education system is crushing the aspirations of these children.
But I have also visited schools where every child aspires to greatness; schools that struggle against adversity and keep dreams alive. There are village schools where the same system which destroys aspirations elsewhere makes the child of a landless labourer dream of becoming a software engineer. I have been moved by children in a school for the blind who spoke to me about their dreams. There are IIT graduates who run billion-dollar companies. As. I speak, our education system is fuelling the aspirations of these people.
Why do we have this paradox? This must be addressed.As a government, we must inspire our children to dream. To do this we need to focus on two big ideas. First, we must ensure that our education system reaches as many students as possible. Second, we must improve the quality of our education system by increasing accountability.
The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the Midday Meal Scheme attack the first problem. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan helps young children, including girls, who otherwise might not get an education. The Midday Meal Scheme, the largest such program in the world, allows poor parents to send their children to school.
Since it came to power, the UPA Government under the leadership of our Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has more than tripled the money for both programs. Over the last two years, these programs have reduced out-of-school children by 39 lakhs. This is nothing short of a revolution. I am confident that the basic foundation of our rural and urban poor shall be enriched beyond our expectations. Mr. Speaker Sir, the importance that this government gives to education in U.P. and Bihar is reflected in the fact that 50% of the total money goes to these two states alone. The real impact of this program needs to be made in the villages of U.P. and Bihar.
We have made progress in primary education. But according to estimates, only 39% of children go to secondary school and only 6% of our children actually go to college. The government, NGOs and the private sector must work together to change this. Secondary and higher education must become widely available to all our children and must provide options for vocational and technical training.
Sir, government statistics show that in same Northern states, on average, a child takes over 10 years to complete primary school.
I am not questioning the ability of our students. What I am talking about is the quality and accountability of our schools. This lack of quality is particularly harmful because it discriminates against poor children. A rich student has alternatives. For a poor student a bad school is the end of the road.
I am new to politics and still have a lot to learn. But if there is one thing I have learnt it is that people who are closer to a problem understand it best. Empower them. Make them accountable and you will get results.
Community institutions can play a powerful role in-improving the quality of local schools. Teacher absenteeism and poor performance are major problems. Handing decision-making to parents and communities directly affected by the problem, is our best bet at solving it. There is enough evidence from our own country to support this.
As we emerge as a global power, our higher education and vocational training can no longer function in a vacuum. Two years ago, I visited a university in a Northeastern state. I met a university topper who was unemployed! Now here is an exceptional person. A person who has followed the path laid out for him perfectly. After 15 years of hard work he discovers that our system has led him nowhere. It has crushed his dreams.
Sir, we cannot afford to judge universities and vocational training institutes simply by the number of degrees they give out. We must also start judging them by the number and quality of jobs that their students get.
To give people productive employment, education needs to be connected to the job market. Our education system has to deepen its links with industry, with research & development, with technology and with finance. It is only by building these links that we will move from creating job seekers to entrepreneurs.
Sir, the fact is that in order to increase the scale and quality of our education system we need financial resources. For this, we have to think in innovative ways.
The UPA Government has more than doubled spending on education. The Prarambhik Shiksha Kosh, to which Rs. 8,746 crores is being added in 2006-07, is a significant step forward.
The "Statement on Revenue Foregone" points out that a figure of Rs. 158 thousand crores has been foregone by the government as a result of "departures from the normal tax regime." Mentioning this figure, for the first time, is a positive step. It would be very helpful, if the Government could elaborate on how it intends to act on this information. This is important because even if we are able to reduce revenue foregone by 15%, it will raise enough money to double our country's allocation for education.
Finally the development of India as a global educational hub could be a new way of expanding our higher education system. Today we are recognised as leaders in higher education. The United States and the United Kingdom together earn over Rs. 50,000 crores from Asian students studying there. This is more than twice our entire educational budget per year. Can we not try to capture some of this revenue to supplement and grow our higher education system? Nalanda and Vikramashila were the Harvard and Cambridge of their day. Why can't we revive this tradition?
But I do want to stress that whatever we do, no Indian girl or boy should be deprived of higher education because they cannot afford it. This is the primary responsibility of the government.
Mr. Speaker Sir, every human Endeavour starts with an aspiration, a dream, a belief.
Sir, we stand in this House as representatives of the people of India. We do so, because we believe in our people. We believe in our future.
It is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that every child dreams, and that every child has the skills to turn those dreams into reality. Let us ensure that every child is able to answer the question "Bade hokar kya bano ge?"
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for this opportunity to put forward my views.
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