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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 16, April 11, 2015

Union Budget 2015-16: Injustice to Dalits and Adivasis

Sunday 12 April 2015, by Bharat Dogra

In order to reduce and remove the many-sided disadvantages and problems faced by Dalits and adivasis, sub-plans for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have been introduced to ensure adequate and justice-based availability of funds for these communities.

Summarising the basic idea and rationale for this, the Planning Commission says: “the persistence of socio-economic backwardness of the SCs and STs in spite of the development efforts had warranted a special and focused strategy, interalia to enable them to share the benefits of overall economic growth in a more equitable manner. This has been sought to be achieved through the Special Component Plan (SCP) for Scheduled Castes, now known as Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan (SCSP) and the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) for Scheduled Tribes. The prime objective of the SCSP is to channelise funds and benefits through identified schemes, for which the States/ UTs and Union Ministries have to earmark funds in proportion to the SC population in the State/ UTs and the country respectively.

The Twelfth Plan document has stated: “Based on the experience of implementing the SCSP/ TSP by the Central Ministries/ departments, the guidelines issued by the Planning Commission will be reviewed to remove any shortcomings, so as to ensure that at least 16.2 per cent of the Central Plan outlay is earmarked under the Schemes/ Programmes that benefit the SC community demonstratively, and 8.2 per cent of the Central Plan outlay is earmarked under the Schemes/Programmes that benefit the ST community demonstratively.”

The Union Budget (2015-16) has allocated Rs 30,851 crores for SCSP and Rs 19,980 crores for TSP. This falls much short of the officially accepted requirement of allocations in proportion to population share.

As the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and Dalit Arthik Aadhar Andolan (DAAA) says, “However, as per the SCSP/TSP Guidelines, the SCs should be allocated 16.6 per cent of the Plan Outlay, which amounts to Rs 77,236 crores towards SCSP and the STs should be allocated 8.6 per cent of the Plan Outlay, which amounts to Rs 40,014 crores towards TSP. Dalits, therefore, have been denied a total of 61 per cent of the due amount under the SCSP, and 53 per cent has been denied to Adivasis under TSP.”

Further the allocation for schemes meant specifically for SC and ST women is shockingly low. As the NCDHR-DAAR review says, “Out of the total allocation of Rs 30,850 crores under the SCSP, the allocation for women specific schemes is a meagre sum of Rs 73 crores—which amounts to 0.23 per cent only! Are Dalit and Adivasi women not in the gamut of ‘Sabka Vikas’? The scenario is much the same when one looks at the Budget allocation under TSP — a paltry sum of Rs 40 crores i.e. 0.20 per cent only! The only small streak of hope is the allocation of Rs 50 crores for SC Girls’ Hostel.”

Further this statement says: “None can deny the truth that Dalits and Adivasis have been the backbone of economic growth through their sheer contribution to agriculture and infras-tructure development in this country. However, it is for all to see that they are paid far below the minimum wage; their health indicators such as infant and maternal mortality rates and the rate of anaemia is very high when compared to the non-SC/ST population.”

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi had prom-ised to make the economy fairer for Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalised sections, unfortunately, his words have not translated into action,” says NCDHR General Secretary Paul Divakar.

As per the estimates provided in the NCDHR-DAAA statement, the funds for SCSP fell short by Rs 46,000 crores and the funds for TSP fell short by Rs 20,000 crores, a total shortage of Rs 66,000 crores under the two heads, if the actual allocations are compared with the requirement of allocation on the basis of population share.

If we compare with previous year’s allocations, then there is a reduction from Rs 43,208 crores (in the 2014-15 Budget) to Rs 30,851 crores (in the 2015-16 Budget) regarding SCSP. Also there is a reduction from Rs 26,715 crores for TSP in 2014-15 to Rs 19,980 crores in the 2015-16 Budget.

The reduced allocation is partly on the basis of the expectation that the higher funds available to the State governments will be used to make up for the reduced allocations in the Central Budget. However, there is no guarantee that this expectation will be fulfilled.

It is also disturbing to see that the Revised Estimates (RE) for 2014-15 in the case of some crucial schemes have been found to be lower than the original Budget Estimates (BE) for this year (2015-16). Thus the allocations for the self-employment scheme of liberation and rehabilitation of manual scavengers has been reduced greatly in the revised schemes, as also for the scheme of proper marketing and minimum support price for minor forest produce.

Keeping in view the large scale and many sided deprivation suffered by these communities, it is not difficult to see what a great difference the proper allocations and expenditures as per the norms of SCSP and TSP can make to Dalits and adivasis, including women and children in these communities. If properly spent, these additional funds can help to reduce the high rates of child malnutrition and mortality. Lives of lakhs of children can be saved. Literacy rates can be increased and drop-out rates can be reduced among children. Similarly, maternal mortality can be reduced significantly and many women can be saved from degrading and risky work. Improvement of water and sanitation in Dalit and adivasi bastis can improve health and provide many-sided relief, particularly to women. New promising non-traditional occu-pations can be opened up for youths. Land rights of Dalits and adivasis can be better protected and small scale irrigation can help to improve their food security and livelihood. Keeping in view this many-sided potential of ensuring proper implementation of SCSP and TSP this task deserves the broadbased support of all social forces that stand for justice and equality.

Bharat Dogra is a free-lance journalist who has been involved with several social initiatives and movements.

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