No country worldwide makes as great a fuss about government budgets as much as we do in India. While state government budgets which should be given more thorough examination receive cursory attention, the Union budget of the Central government attracts banner headlines and invites reams of expert comment from academics, economists, businessmen and journalists in the audio-visual and print media. Unfortunately most of these analyses are reminiscent of the attempt of the legendary seven blind men of Hindoostan to picturise an elephant using their sense of touch. There’s insufficient awareness within the commentariat that the standard 800-word essay can’t summarise a 161-minute budget presentation address of 147 paragraphs and 18,000 words.
That’s why despite the media overkill of Union Budget 2020-21, the public interest demands detailed long form examination of the compulsions and constraints of Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman who had the formidable task of raising resources at a time when the high-potential Indian economy is experiencing a severe downturn. The annual rate of GDP growth has dipped below 5 percent, unemployment is at its highest in decades, investor sentiment is depressed, stock market indices are plumbing new depths, exports growth is almost nil and maintenance of law and order is under severe strain countrywide.
It’s against this grim backdrop that your editors have evaluated Budget 2020-21 from the perspective of developing the country’s human capital — the only factor endowment the Indian economy has in abundance — that offers a way out of the shallows and misery in which the economy has been floundering for the past seven decades after independence.
The differentiating feature of our detailed cover story in this spring issue is that while we lament the grossly inadequate provision made in Budget 2020-21 for human capital development, i.e, public education and healthcare, we have analysed the budget holistically and suggest ways and means to slash unproductive revenue expenditure and mobilise resources for investment in developing the country’s high-potential human capital. In our opinion, there’s considerable room for reducing establishment, defence, subsidies expenditure and raising additional resources for investment in human capital development. Hard times call for belt-tightening and radical restructuring initiatives in the larger public interest. The era of business as usual is over. That’s the principal message of our cover story in this issue.
On February 26, acknowledging the important contribution of the country’s estimated 400,000 routinely vilified budget private schools (BPS) schooling 60 million children countrywide, we awarded and celebrated the best among them as per their rankings in the inaugural EducationWorld India BPS Rankings 2020 published in early February. This celebratory event staged in Mumbai provoked unprecedented enthusiasm. Check out the pictorial essay of the awards event in this news and comments-packed issue of India’s indisputably #1 education publication.