Did the Budget benefit marginalised sections?

Delivering the 2016-17 Budget speech, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government will partner with Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) to set up hubs for entrepreneurs for the backward classes. While Rs 62,838 crore have been allocated for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes from the total Budget outlay, a sum of Rs 500 crore has been allocated to the government’s Stand-Up India scheme in the Budget to encourage start-ups by women, Scheduled Caste, and Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) entrepreneurs. “This must become the year of entrepreneurship for SC/ST and this will benefit 2.5 lakh entrepreneurs,” Jaitley said in the speech.

Even as some Dalit and Adivasi organisations welcome the move to encourage entrepreneurs from these communities, funds, they say, still fall short. According to the guidelines for budgetary allocation to Special Component Plan (SCP) for Scheduled Caste and Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) for Scheduled Tribes, 16.6 percent for SCP and 8.6 percent for TSP from the plan outlay should have been made. “As per the Supreme Court guidelines, the budgetary allocation should be proportionate to the SC and ST population,” says Umesh Babu, an independent researcher with Delhi Forum, a Delhi-based non-profit. However, just like the previous year’s budget, this year’s budget too falls short of meeting those requirements. This year, the total plan outlay was Rs 5.50 lakh crore, of which Rs 38,833 crore have been allocated to SCP with a proportion of 7.6 percent while Rs 24,005 crore was allocated to TSP which is only 4.36 percent.

Further, activists say that the funds rarely reach the targeted population and are used to provide benefits to everyone. They have also questioned the previous Budget’s allocations to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Central budgetary assistance to the states is provided through two schemes—Scheduled Caste Plan (SCP) and Tribal Sub Plan (TSP). In the last budget (2015-16), it was announced that Rs 77,236 crore will be allocated to Scheduled Castes while Scheduled Tribes would get Rs 40,014 crore. However, a pre-budget memorandum submitted to the Finance Ministry this year by National Coalition on SCP and TSP Legislation, a Delhi-based rights group that tracks budgetary provision for backward classes, found that only Rs 30,851 crore was allocated to SCP and Rs 20,000 crores to TSP as per the revised estimates. Of this, only Rs 8,793 crore was directed specifically towards the development of Dalits, as per the guidelines of the Planning Commission, while Rs 7,399 crores were directed to ST. Moreover, 60 percent of the funds for TSP were under “general allocation” while in the case of SCP, it was 65 percent for the fiscal year of 2015-16. General allocation is meant for the entire country and not just for SC/ST population. The report found that 28 percent of SCP and 37 percent of TSP allocation are targeted allocation, which benefits SC/ST directly.  

When all Ministries are supposed to allocate funds for TSP and SCP, only a handful do so. For instance, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs allocated 100 percent fund to Scheduled Tribes under TSP and 12 Departments/Ministries allocated 6-11 percent funds in 2015-16. 

But other important Ministries/Departments, such as the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Ministry of Power, Department of Telecom, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, and Ministry of Mines made no allocations under TSP. Similarly, of 108 Ministries and Departments, only 23 made allocations to SC under SCP (these exclude allocations for Daman and Diu). In terms of percentage of allocation, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has allocated the highest (79 percent) while the lowest allocation is by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (2 percent). The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, and Department of AIDS Control had no allocations under SCP in 2015-16.

Direct Benefit Schemes, which have been hailed for their reach, too, do not really work in uplifting the status of ST/ST in the society. The memorandum observed that most of the direct benefit schemes are for survival, and not for development or empowerment of SC/ST. “Survival implies that the schemes are only catering to the basic needs like nutrition, or just an adequate standard of living rather than focus on rural development; agriculture and allied services, industries and mineral, science, technology and environment and transport,” it states. According to the lead researcher of the study, Paul Divakar, around 70 percent of the allocations are used for the sustenance and only 27 percent for the development of Adivasi/SC/ST.

Divakar says that not just the present Modi-led administration but even the previous regimes followed the same policy towards these schemes, as was noted by the Comptroller Auditor General of India in 2007.  DOWN TO EARTH

(The views expressed are strictly those of Down to Earth.)

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