Written by Paul Divakar N, Beena Pallical, Adikanda Singh
As India supposedly transitions to a fast-growing economy, the numbers show growth has nearly come to a standstill. Despite this, India added 17 new billionaires last year. Indian billionaires’ wealth increased by Rs 4,89,100 crore to over
Rs 20,67,600 crore as per the inequality report of Oxfam — almost equivalent to the Union Budget in 2017-18.
It is in this context that the Budget 2020-21 again failed to utilise a window of opportunity to bridge inequality through the legacy of targeted provisions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. These were known as Special Component Plan for SCs and Tribal Sub Plan (SCP and TSP). Under the two schemes, the Union government was to allocate funds in schemes towards the welfare of SCs/STs proportional to their population.
With such focused guidelines, what went wrong? Is it due to gaps in policy or lack of policy concerns where SC, STs are concerned? Or is it bias among officials? Or is there no leverage built into the policy enabling the right to plan and right to access budgets for SCs/STs?
The effective implementation of this policy has four major barriers — quantum of allocation as per NITI Aayog’s own policy, ‘notional allocation’ instead of real allocation, absence of people’s participation in design, planning and implementation, and the absence of accountability.
While due allocation for SCs in this year’s budget should be Rs 1,39,172 crore as per NITI Aayog guidelines, the allocation was Rs 83,257 crore, or 60%. This trend has been on for several years.
Even within the allocation, only Rs 16,174 crore has the potential of reaching the community. These are targeted schemes with clear benefits for SCs/STs. The rest are general or obsolete schemes with no welfare component for them.
How can one justify for example ‘Compensation to Service Providers’ for creation and augmentation of telecom infrastructure for which Rs 644 crore has been allocated this year? This is termed as notional allocation. In 2018-19, a four-lane road from Raipur to Visakhapatnam was billed under the Tribal Sub Plan.
There is not only no participation of SCs/STs in the design of the schemes but no planning either. It is a post-facto accounting exercise!
The other hurdle is treating these schemes as a showcase for amounts under SC/ST budgets, though these are in fact existing general schemes. A massive Rs 12,597.48 crore was allocated for PM-Kisan for SCs. This has not been designed keeping the needs of SCs in perspective.
Another covert exclusion is through starving important schemes designed for SC, STs, with negligible allocation. Only Rs 8 crore was allocated for tribal students’ scholarships for college, Rs 40 crore for the National Safai Karamchari Finance and Development Corporation.
Yet another major hurdle is the gross negligence of Dalit and Adivasi women’s development, which is critical to empowerment of the community. Women from these communities are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and violence. The 2018 NCRB data reveals that a minimum of eight cases of rape against SC women and three cases against ST women are reported every day; showing an increase from last year. Despite this, there is only a marginal allocation of
Rs 46 crore towards providing them access to justice. Only one scheme pertains to the same, ‘Strengthening of Machinery for Enforcement of PCR Act, 1955 and PoA Act, 1989’, that too primarily on sensitisation programmes and not equitable redress mechanisms.
The 2020-21 Budget allocates 0.8% (Rs 7,986.34 crore) for Dalit women and 0.34% (Rs 3,174.91 crore) for tribal women from the Centrally Sponsored Schemes and Central Sector Schemes.
There is an urgent need for communities to reclaim the rights to planning for their resources. Exclusion of the right to plan is part of ‘untouchability’. The government as well as the authorities concerned need to enable this right to planning to the communities.
Provisions need to be made to build in social audit and accountability. There should be transparency in allocation, fund flow, and in details of names of those accessing the schemes. There should be participation of the community at all levels.
Paul Divakar N is chairperson, Asia Dalit Rights Forum; Beena Pallical is general secretary, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights; and
Adikanda Singh is national coordinator, Dalit Arthik Adhikar Andolan
Suraj Yengde, the author of Caste Matters, curates the fortnightly ‘Dalitality’ column
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