On the 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in the social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will recognize the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social life and economic life, we shall, by reason of our economic and social structure, continue to deny the principle of one-man one value…
Ambedkar’s words continue to be pertinent even today. Despite years of independence, the marginalised and vulnerable sections of the society, especially Dalits and Adivasis, continue to lag severely behind in the developmental paradigm and process. if we were to look at the budget presented in parliament today, development has now become only a fancy word.
The Union Budget 2018-19 is the second budget under the new financial scheme of merging the plan and non-plan aspects of the budget as well as the first since the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST). In the budget, there was a fundamental shift made towards a ‘welfare model of SC/ST’, revamping Scheduled Caste Sub Plan and Tribal Sub Plan to Scheduled Caste Component and Scheduled Tribe Component (SCC-STC), making it an unwarranted retrogressive move, and making SCs and STs mere beneficiaries of welfare programmes. In light of the new developments, the quantum of allocation towards, SCC-STC is from the entire budget as opposed to 30% of the total Union Budget. However, despite a shift in the approach, no steps have been taken in the year to introduce any guidelines by the government, making it difficult to hold the government accountable.
Our analysis of the budget 2017-18 reveals a continuation of old patterns. Finance minister Arun Jaitley presented an Rs 24, 42,213.30 crore expenditure budget. The allocations under SCC-STC continue to be much below the mandated amount. In the merged scenario of Plan and Non-Plan estimates, allocations are being made under Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CS) and Central Sector Schemes (CSS). Both these pertain to developmental outlays. Allocations under CSS and CS towards SC and ST development are to be a minimum, and not less than their proportionate population, which according to Census 2011 is 16.6% for SCs and 8.6% for STs.
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In the current year, only Rs 56, 619 crore, i.e. 6. 55 % of the total budget expenditure, is allocated for the SCs and Rs 39, 135 crore, i.e. 4.53 % for the STs, with a total of SCC-STC amounting to 11 % of the total budget. The allocations under both SCC and STC continue to severely fall short of the mandated amount. Under SCC, the allocations were short by 10.5% and 4.07% for SCs and STs respectively.
We welcome the move for the Rs 12.56 crores allocation towards scholarships for students with disabilities. It is good that govt has recognised disability as an issue. The introduction of Eklavya Scheme for construction of schools in tribal areas for ST students is also good However there are already existing ashram schools which are underfunded and poorly maintained, how is Eklavya going to be different?
“From the Tribal Perspective, the 2018-19 union budget has been set back for Tribal Development Rights and mere rhetoric when it comes to the real aspirations of the Adivasi/Tribal community across the country. Various marginalised sections of the Tribal community such as migrants, women, youth, displaced and most vulnerable feel disappointed as this budget offers nothing new,” says Abhay Xaxa of the National Campaign on Adivasi Rights.
However, one of the worse affected as a result of these poor allocations are students in higher education institutions across the country. The caste system keeps both the places and mechanisms of knowledge production and institutions outside the reach of the Dalit and Adivasi community. Dalit and Adivasi students face multiple forms of discrimination and exclusion in institutions, sometimes even physical and sexual violence resulting in increased drop out rates among the communities and and/or prevalence of high suicide rate.
In the budget, Rs 3,000 crore for SCs and about Rs 1,586 crore for STs are allocated especially towards Post Matric Scholarship. Such an amount falls severely short of addressing the mandated needs of students.
Regarding gender, budgeting again remains plain rhetoric; when analysing the allocations for women, specifically Dalit and Adivasi women, under the Union budget 2018-19, only 1.03% of allocations under the Gender Budget Statement are allocated towards SC and ST women amounting to Rs 1,251.93 crore. This is only a pittance compared to the needs of the Dalit and Adivasi women.
While construction of toilets is taking place at an alarming speed, little is being done towards the employment of women engaged in manual scavenging. It is mostly women from these communities who are engaged in manual scavenging. While emphasis is laid on construction, little or no focus is given to actual usage. Those engaged in manual scavenging are given one-time compensation, but little is done post that to ensure women’s access to gainful employment. The allocation for Self Employment Scheme for safai karamcharis has increased from Rs 5 crore to Rs 20 crore – a welcome move. However, the share of the National Safai Karamchari Finance Development Corporation has reduced from Rs 45 crore to Rs 30 crore. There is no proportionate allocation towards ensuring gainful employment of the community engaged in manual scavenging.
A deeper analysis of the nature of allocation for SC welfare schemes show that only 50.7% has been allocated towards targeted schemes for SCs and 51.24% for STs. While a majority of the allocation is under general or non-targeted schemes, that include several administration related expenses, they are contrary to the underlying principle of ‘directly benefit individuals, families and hamlets belonging to SC/ST Community’. The targeted schemes amounted only to Rs 28,698 crore for SCC and Rs 19,623 crores out of the total allocations. The special components for SCs and STs have been visionary, but the purpose remains defeated due to gross under allocations, notional and general allocations along with unspent amount. The Jadhav guidelines, meant to be followed while allocating, have been continuously flouted. Therefore, it is absolutely paramount that the sub-plans are legislated with strict mechanisms for effective implementation.
N. Paul Divakar is general secretary of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights and is an expert on fiscal matters with specific reference to the SCSP and TSP. Analysis and research has been done by the team at Dalit Arthik Adhikar Andolan-NCDHR.