Parents want to give their children the best of everything especially education. Children, on the other hand, want everything without pausing to think what sacrifices their parents have to make to give them all that they desire!
In an induction program for fresh batch of MBA students I asked them if they had talked about the cost of this course for two years. A day student would need roughly Rs4 lakh including fees; while a hostelite would end up spending at least Rs6 lakh in a city like Pune.
Most responded by saying that they had not discussed this with parents at all; some said they had-the parents had assured them that they have the money to finance them. I then asked them how many of them had taken an education loan to cover the fees-the response was huge. The very few, who had worked in the past, were going to pay for the course from their own savings!
Most students have an attitude that it is their parents’ responsibility to pay for their higher studies, which is much more expensive than graduation. Fresh engineers, whose parents have already spent over a lakh per year as engineering fees, come to business schools instead of joining jobs and spending on their post graduation on their own.
I asked them why they had not worked after engineering and earned and saved and then join MBA. I did not get any specific answer. While I got a number of strange replies including, “I did not actually like engineering but somehow completed it!” and “I did not get campus placement so decided to pursue MBA!” or “I want to finish my education before taking a job”.
This shows complete lack of concern for parents and I am sure parents of such children must have sacrificed a lot for paying for their children’s education. The fault doesn’t lie completely with children- parents too are to be blamed. They probably feel they do all this to fulfill the aspirations of their children. It is important for parents to make their children realize the amount of hardships they have undergone to educate them. Many spend their retirement funds and are left without enough money for a comfortably post retirement period. After spending all the money and energy of building children’s lives, one hears horror stories of how children refuse to look after the same parents later on! Parents must clearly tell their children the amount they can afford to spend on education, marriage and career building. They must ask the children to partially finance their education by taking education loan that they must repay once they start earning!!
Today, education loans are available more easily than before. I have observed that children from well to do families who get into so called ‘prestigious colleges’ take education loans! This could be because the IT returns filed by their parents do not show the real income and hence taking a loan is a camouflage! Also, some do this to get tax breaks for these loans.
I have come across two cases of girls who took loans because they wanted to study abroad and promised their parents and they would repay loans on their own. It is a matter of pride for the parents that both these girls are actually doing this. We need to have more with this spirit.
The psychology of parents works this way- they think they do not want their children to suffer the way they did as kids. They aim at providing everything to their children that they lacked in their own childhood days. To an extent this is fine but parents should realize that they cannot indulge in spending money when you actually do not have it! The fact is that today’s youngsters are demanding and getting much more than the previous generation and still they are unhappy and cribbing all the time!!
It is high time the parents discussed money matters frankly with their children. My experience says that children understand even at a young age, if explained properly. My son, when 5-6 years old, once asked me why we did not have a VCR at our home. I honestly told him that I cannot afford it and that I have no money to buy one! He said get the money from the bank. I then explained to him-one has to first put money in the bank and then only, one can withdraw it. I was glad that he understood and never mentioned the VCR again! This is what convinced me that children can understand.
The children we are talking about here are much older and it is a shame that they show no concern about money but expect it as a right.
I urge parents and children to please wake up and look at reality. As things stand and as they are likely to pan out in the next few years, it is clear that even after spending so much money, getting a well-paying job isn’t guaranteed-the pay back is going to be long drawn. You must first find out if you can afford the education you plan to give to your children and the return that you expect from this investment. Learn to say no when you know you cannot afford something that your children want and understand that there is nothing wrong in asking your children to either self finance their higher education or make them take a loan for partial expenses-you will still finance food, travel, phone, internet and other expenses!
Do not give a damn to what people will say! You should be proud of your children for having the decency to self-finance their education or taking a loan and the responsibility of repaying it! At least you won’t be left penniless for days when these very children show you the door.
(Prof Anil Agashe teaches at Symbiosis and other management schools in Pune).
High cost of education is eating away the savings of most parents and the cost of raising a child does not become any less expensive in any phase of their lives. Here are our findings of a nationwide survey of 1,712 middle-to-upper class parents. They filled out specific segments pertaining to the age-group of their children-up to four years, five to 16 and 17 to 21 in what is probably the first ever survey of its kind
Read Real Cost of Parenting, our cover story.
Around 55% of our sample provided their average annual household income figures. Only 23.9% of these reported an annual household income of below Rs5 lakh; 28.6% were in the Rs5 lakh-Rs10 lakh bracket, another 33.3% earned between Rs10-Rs25 lakh, while as many as 14.3% earned over Rs25 lakh. It indicates that the respondents are mainly upper-income households with above-average awareness about sound financial products and investment choices as well as prudent borrowing habits.
The Baby Years (up to four years)
Starting with maternity, there is never a less expensive phase in a child’s life. In the early years, it is the cost of immunisation, minor illnesses and for middle-class parents, things like diapers, baby food, toys, childcare and birthday celebrations. But one in three respondents had not budgeted for the increase in monthly expenditure on the child.
Estimates of the cost of raising one child to the age of four years vary from 10% of the household income to as high as 25%. As many as 84% of Moneylife survey respondents felt that up to 10% of monthly family salary went towards monthly caretaker/crèche expenses for one child.
Over half the parents were paying off a home loan (52.3%) while 37.8% did not have a mortgage. Only 44.5% of parents have even a basic life insurance.
The School Years (5-16)
As children grow up, 94% of the parents listed children’s education and hobbies as their biggest concern. Clothes, entertainment (vacations, gizmos, pocket money), food, healthcare and housing followed—in that order. Almost one in five respondents has paid 25%-50% of their monthly income towards school entrance fee for each child.
Worries about the high cost of education makes parents in this group easy targets for selling child insurance plans. This set of parents say that they are already saving for higher education (90% list it as their first priority) followed by marriage expenses (50%) and then healthcare (20%). Interestingly, Indian parents do not see their expenses ending with educating their children. Some parents believe it is their duty to set up their children in business, purchase property for them or ensure a decent inheritance.
Depending on their income as well as the size of the family, parents estimate the cost of raising one child at 10% to 25% of household income. Only four out of 10 respondents are confident of having enough funds to pay the fees of a professional course for their child after the 12th class. But 74% of parents said that they would fund their child’s education through savings.
The preferred savings instruments for their own retirement planning are interesting. Over half (54%) prefer public provident fund and employee provident funds. About 50% claim they invest in equity mutual funds, 46% say its property.
The number of parents paying off a mortgage dropped significantly (to 43%). The good news is that 46% of parents did not have any loan and were probably saving the maximum in this segment. Only 49.6% of parents have even a basic life insurance.
The Higher Education Years (17-21)
These are the years when costs really spiral, on all fronts. Here again, 94% of parents listed education and hobbies as the biggest expense.
Costs of private coaching, hobbies, mobiles, gadgets and entertainment (holidays with friends, eating out, movies and hobbies) rise rapidly and it is the time when poor financial planning of earlier years begins to be felt.
Over 45% of our respondents think that they should have planned better for children’s expenses, while 57% of the respondents are worried that their financial responsibilities may not be over even after a child turns 21. A scary 38% of the respondents said that they are tapping into funds they had saved for their own retirement years to pay for the professional education of their children.
Only 8% of the parents had their child take an education loan to pay for their professional courses. This underlines the image of Indian parents being willing to sacrifice almost everything for their children.
A good 57.8% of parents have no mortgage, but as many as 30% were still paying off home loans, in addition to meeting the high cost of education. Only 50.4% of parents have even a basic life insurance.
Aruna Roy leads the vociferous campaign in calling for citizens across the country through rallies, dharnas, signature campaigns and any other form of protests on 6th and 7th August, to oppose the attempt of political parties to amend the RTI law in Parliament
On 6th August, the first day of the monsoon session of the Parliament, leading RTI activists of the country will amplify their protest against the proposed plan of bringing an amendment in the Right to Information (RTI) Act, to keep political parties out of the gambit of the Act. The amendments are a sequel to the historic Central Information Commission’s (CIC) order, which held that political parties are public authorities under the RTI Act.
The National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI) led by Aruna Roy, Bharat Dogra, Shekhar Singh, Shailesh Gandhi and Harsh Mander Roy has urged activists and citizens to hold rallies, dharnas, meetings, signature campaigns or any other form of protest on 6th and 7th August to put public pressure on politicians who have united together, to allegedly bring in the amendments. Members of NCPRI will hold protests in front of the Parliament on 6th August.
The email sent by NCPRI states, “There is an urgent need for people to collectively and publicly oppose the proposed amendments to the RTI Act and safeguard this fundamental right. Please email us details of the public action being planned by you at [email protected] We will circulate the details widely.”
“The RTI Act is a landmark legislation which has empowered citizens to meaningfully participate in the functioning of our democracy. It has enabled people to seek transparency and accountability from the government and challenge corruption and arbitrary use of power.”
“The move of the government to amend the Act only goes to show that political parties are not willing to subject themselves to the transparency law and be open to public scrutiny under the Act. According to media reports, the government is planning to introduce amendments to the RTI Act in the forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament, which begins on the 6th of August 2013.’’
NCPRI has also started an online petition to the Prime Minister to oppose the proposed amendments. It requests citizens to sign and share the petition.
The members of NCPRI in their appeal to sign the petition said, “The RTI community has been very vigilant and has managed to prevent any amendment of the RTI Act, despite attempts from as early as 2006, a year after its passage in Parliament. Since the RTI act came into effect it has proved to be a powerful means to fight corruption and the arbitrary use of power. The vigilance and protest by the RTI community kept the establishment from proceeding with the dormant and explicit desire to curtail transparency and accountability entitlements…It is likely that these amendments will seek to not only address this issue but to curtail various other entitlements that have now established the ability of the RTI to fight corruption and the arbitrary use of power by the establishment.’’
It may be recalled that the landmark judgment that brought political parties under the ambit of RTI Act was delivered by the Central Information Commission (CIC) on 3 June 2013. The full bench consisted of Chief Central Information Commissioner (CCIC) Satyananda Mishra and Information Commissioners ML Sharma and Annapurna Dixit who delivered this judgment. The RTI applicants/ petitioners to CIC were Anil Bahirwal, national coordinator of Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) and leading RTI activist Subhash Agrawal.
Following are the salient features of the CIC judgment which shows various areas in which political parties are “substantially’’ funded by the government and hence they are public authorities under RTI Act. (This has been culled from the http://adrindia.org website):
All India Congress Committee (AICC)/Indian National Congress (INC), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Communist Party of India (Marxist)-CPI(M), Communist Party of India (CPI), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have been substantially financed by the Central Government and hence considered public authority under section 2(h) (ii) of the RTI Act.
1. Allotment of land in Delhi: Indirect Financing of Political Parties by Allotment of large tracts of land to them in prime areas of Delhi either, free of cost, or at concessional rates.
2. Allotment of land in State Capitals: Allotments of land to Political Parties in State Capitals as well
3. Accommodations/Bungalows at Concessional Rentals: Directorate of Estate has allotted Bungalows to Political Parties in Delhi at highly concessional rates; this is also a form of indirect financing of the Parties.
4. Total Tax Exemption: Central Government also provides to Political Parties total exemption from the payment of income tax against the incomes of the Parties (under section 13 A of the Income Tax Act)
5. Free Airtime on Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR): During Lok Sabha Elections and State Assembly Elections, Political Parties are allotted airtime slots on Doordarshan and All India Radio absolutely free of any charge
The criticality of the role being played by these Political Parties in our democratic set up and the nature of duties performed by them also point towards their public character, bringing them in the ambit of section 2(h).
1. Political parties are the lifeblood of our polity: Elections are contested on party basis. Political Parties affect the lives of citizens, directly or indirectly, in every conceivable way and are continuously engaged in performing public duty.
2. Political Parties are the unique institution: Political Parties are essentially political institutions and are non-governmental. Their uniqueness lies in the fact that in spite of being non-governmental, they come to wield directly or indirectly influence on the exercise of governmental power. It would be odd to argue that transparency is good for all State organs but not so good for Political Parties, which, in reality, control all the vital organs of the State.
3. Preamble of RTI Act: The preamble of RTI Act aims to create an ‘informed citizenry, contain corruption and hold government and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed. Needless to say, political parties are important political institutions and can play a critical role in heralding transparency in public life. Political Parties continuously perform public functions, which define parameters of governance and socio-economic development in the country.
Political Parties have constitutional and legal rights-and-liabilities because of the following:
i. Registration of Political Parties: Political Parties are required to be registered with the ECI under section 29A of the R.P. Act, 1951 – a Central Legislation. An association or body gets the status of a political party on its registration. ECI awards symbols to Political Parties under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, only after registration.
ii. Filing of Election Expense and Contributions: The ECI calls for details of expenses made by the Political Parties in the elections. Contributions of the value of Rs. 20,000/- and above received from any person or a Company by a Political Party are required to be intimated to ECI under section 29C of the R.P. Act.
iii. ECI superintendence: ECI is vested with the superintendence, direction and control of elections under Article 324 of the Constitution. ECI is also vested with the authority to suspend or withdraw recognition of a political party in certain contingencies.
iv. Tenth Schedule of Constitution: Political Parties can recommend disqualification of Members of the House in certain contingencies under the Tenth Schedule
1. Setting up of CPIOs: The Presidents, General/Secretaries of these Political Parties are hereby directed to designate CPIOs and the Appellate Authorities at their headquarters in 06 weeks’ time. The CPIOs so appointed will respond to the RTI applications extracted in this order in 04 weeks’ time.
2. Voluntary Disclosure: The Presidents/General Secretaries of the above mentioned Political Parties are also directed to comply with the provisions of section 4(1) (b) of the RTI Act by way of making voluntary disclosures on the subjects mentioned in the said clause
Roadmap for the complaint
Contents of the online petition to PM
Shri Manmohan Singh,
Government of India
Dear Mr Prime Minister,
India’s governance is going through a credibility crisis as never before, in which all sectors of governance and social formations have been suspect. The political establishment has come in for most severe criticism, just and unjust.
Perhaps the only real argument for the credibility of the government continues to be the enactment and implementation of the RTI Act....
Perhaps the only real argument for the credibility of the government continues to be the enactment and implementation of the RTI Act. It has been an entitlement, which has kept the intent of a free and open system of governance afloat. The multiple uses of the Act to improve government functioning are so many that they defy enumeration. The use of the RTI is therefore seen as the one stated intent of the government to lay itself open to scrutiny, and therefore accountability.
The series of attempts to amend the Act, which have arisen periodically, have since 2006 been nullified to a large extent by public pressure as well as the political will of a part of the establishment and government.
It is reported that the Government is considering the introduction of a bill in Parliament to amend the RTI law, as a sharp reaction to the recent Central Information Commission order, which declared six political parties to be public authorities under the RTI Act. Such a move to amend the Act will reinforce and confirm the suspicions of many that the political establishment intends to cover acts of corruption and arbitrary use of power.
We, as citizens of India, empowered by the RTI Act, demand that it not be amended. The Act has enabled the making of informed choices and strengthened participatory democracy; by enabling the citizens of India to monitor and access services throughout the country. Any amendment to the RTI Act would undermine and weaken the process of realizing various constitutional promises. In 2009, when amendments were being proposed to the RTI Act, the concerned minister of the government had assured Parliament, in response to a question, that “Non- Governmental Organisations and Social activists will be consulted on the proposed amendments.” We would, therefore, expect the government to hold wide ranging public discussions before they think of amending the law in any way.
We are confident that the government will recognise the force of our demand and not take steps to amend and thereby dilute the Right to Information law, which has been acknowledged in India and abroad, as an affirmation of the right of Indian citizens to participate in, and monitor, democratic governance.
(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)