The priority given by Punjab and Haryana to education in their state Budgets is a welcome indication that education not just empowers and enlightens, but also helps in removing inequality and building an inclusive society. Both states face the challenge of making the transition from an agriculture-based economy to a knowledge economy. Punjab has allocated Rs 13,092 crore to education, over Rs 500 crore higher than the allocation for agriculture — the economic mainstay of the state — reflecting the desire to invest in human resources. Haryana’s allocation for education is the highest ever — Rs 22,575 crore — with focus on promoting science and English, and other new initiatives. Punjab’s Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal justified the allocation on the ground that there have been positive developments such as an increase in school enrolment and improvement in results. The emphasis is a reminder that the responsibility to improve literacy rests primarily with the government as it is a majority of those from the disadvantaged sections to whom the drive must reach as they cannot afford education in the private sector, which costs more, and in some instances, is driven by financial considerations. It is the lagging behind of this section that tells on the overall health of the economy and society.
Haryana has seen the growth of urban centres like Gurugram, Faridabad and Panchkula, while Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jalandhar and Patiala are among the more developed cities of Punjab that also faces the problem of migration of its youth to foreign shores for better prospects. But a majority still lives in the rural areas, and if an enabling opportunity exists, it can act as an incentive to arrest the trend.
The two states should use this opportunity to remove the flaws in the education system like lack of infrastructure and properly trained teachers, and the non-availability of books as well as uniform. The budgetary boost can go a long way in tackling poverty and unemployment.