The Union Budget 2017-18 marks a paradigm shift in budgeting for the development of SCs and STs communities, not only with the merger of plan and non-plan categories but also by moving away from the sub-plan policy of a targeted budget.
Analysis of the Budget from a Dalit and Adivasi perspective reveals a drastic change in the Scheduled Castes Sub Plan (SCSP) and Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) component of the Budget, which have been replaced by ‘allocations for welfare of Scheduled Castes’, under statement 10A, and ‘allocations for welfare of Scheduled Tribes’, statement 10B. This move comes despite the suggestions of the chief ministers’ committee on the restructuring of centrally-sponsored schemes to bring the centrally-sponsored ‘Umbrella Schemes for Development of Scheduled Castes’ and ‘Umbrella Schemes for Development of Scheduled Tribe’ as ‘core to core’ schemes which are to be prioritised and sanctioned by legislation.
Analysis of the allocations under the SCSP the TSP reveals a recurring trend of under-allocation in 2017-18, wherein the SCSP comprises only 2.5% and the TSP only 1.53% of total allocations, which is not even the half of the mandated amount.
It is disheartening to see the anchoring role of ‘plan’ in the Budget for determining SCSP and TSP left in a limbo after the removal of the plan and non-plan categories. Clear instructions which were expected to ensure an efficient, transparent and accountable formula to sustain SCSP and TSP have not come from either the Ministry of Finance or the NITI Ayog.
The Ministry of Finance issued clear directions to all the relevant ministries/departments via GO No. F.1 (16)- B (AC/ 2011 dated August 23, 2016 to follow the Jadhav guidelines for allocations to SC/ST schemes. Post the plan and non-plan merger, using the directives of the ministry, Jadhav guidelines were supposed to be followed for calculating due allocations for SCs and STs for the current year. For previous year allocations, 16.6% of the plan budget amounts to Rs 91,386 crore as due allocation for SCs. This amounts to 4.62% of the total Budget expenditure. Similarly due allocation for STs amounts to Rs 47,276 crore, which equals to 2.32% of the total Budget expenditure. Taking this as the benchmark for allocation, in the 2017-18 Budget due allocations for SCs stood at 4.63% and STs at 2.39% of the total budgeted expenditure, which is Rs 96,638 crore for SCSP and Rs 49,992 crore for the TSP. But instead, in the Union Budget 2017-18, a total of Rs 44,246 crore for SCs and Rs 18,073 crore for STs has been denied by the central government.
Women from Dalit and Adivasi communities find themselves triply discriminated against based on their caste/tribe, class and gendered location. Any developmental approach needs to factor in their needs by adequately redistributing resources in their favour as well as ensuring appropriate access to enhance their capabilities. In the current Budget, the Dalit Arthik Adhikar Andolan’s analysis shows, they continue to be marginalised within SC/ST allocations. It is shocking to calculate that the total allocation for Dalit-Adivasi women forms a meagre 0.99% of the total gender Budget statement. However, within the total allocation under the SC/ST welfare schemes, allocation for Dalit women amount to 1.19% within SC schemes and 1.68% for ST schemes.
Allocations for the northeast region
In the Union Budget of 2017-18, the total allocations for the development of the northeast region has been increased from Rs 32,180.08 crore to Rs 43244.64 crore, which is exclusive of TSP and SCSP allocations. In addition to this, a total of Rs 716 crore from the TSP and Rs 53 crore from the SCSP has also been allocated for the Ministry of Development for North East Region. But still, other than one single scheme for skill development, there has been no other new scheme introduced for the development of the northeast region. Our further analysis shows that there have been major budgetary cuts for the programme related to food and public distribution, electronics and information technology, environment, forest and climate change and urban development.
Several of the directly beneficial schemes for SCs and STs, like the National Scheduled Caste Finance Development Corp, venture capital fund for SCs, credit guarantee fund for SCs, self-employment of manual scavengers and rehabilitation of manual scavengers, national overseas scholarships for SCs and pre-matric scholarships for SC students have also either been severely under-funded or funding has been slashed.
A deeper analysis of the nature of allocation for SC welfare schemes show that only 53% of total SC allocation is towards targeted schemes, which in turn amounts to only 1.3 % of the total budget expenditure. The general or non-targeted schemes include employees pension scheme, improvement in salary scale of university and college teachers, and other administrative expenses which are contra to the underlying principle of “directly benefit individuals, families and hamlets belonging to SC/ST Community,” as stated by the Jadhav regulations.
Although this Budget shows an increase in the allocation in absolute terms, it is retrogressive step for the empowerment and welfare of SC/STs. Several allocations that are administrative in nature like salaries, interest payments, subsidies and pensions are merged into welfare schemes in the name of the plan and non-plan merger. The plague of a large proportion of non-targeted schemes continue. Merger of plan and non-plan categories has legitimised large-scale diversions of SC/ST funds to pensions, salaries and so on. Most of all, reducing the sub-plans for SCs and STs to mere allocations for SC/ST welfare is definitely going back at least three decades of planning for SC/ST development in this country. This is not just a name change but major policy shift which will have an irreversible detrimental effect on building an inclusive India.
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.