Reservation for the Dalits in jobs and politics is not the main way to uplift them economically; rather, it is a representation in a diverse society to keep the bonds of nationalism strong.
The Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes constitute 25% of India’s population and there have been policies to allocate resources proportionate to their population. The Centre and states are responsible to protect, promote and develop them on par with others.
When the government realised that despite many welfare schemes, the Dalits and tribals have not benefited from the Five Year Plans (FYPs) as other communities have, the Planning Commission introduced the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) in 1974-75 and the Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan (SCSP) in 1979-80. The idea behind these sub-plans was to set apart a sum in the budgets of each ministry in proportion to their population.
At present, not only are the Dalits and Tribals being denied their share in budget allocation, but whatever funds disbursed are either diverted or unutilised. The pattern of denial of allocation of funds under the SCSP/TSP reveals a discriminatory attitude.
In the past three FYPs — the 10th, 11th and the last three financial years under 12th — a huge amount has been curtailed. In the financial year (FY) 2002-03, the total plan expenditure was Rs 71,569.41 crore, out of which only Rs 305.73 crore was allocated for the SCSP/TSP — it should have been Rs 17,462.94 crore. In the 11th FYP, denial under the SCSP/TSP in 2007-08 was Rs 13,307.8 crore and this has increased to Rs 26,327.89 crore in the FY 2013-14.
The tragedy also persists in the realm of utilisation. In 2012-13, the budgetary allocation under the SCSP/TSP was Rs 37,113.03 crore and the unutilised amount was Rs 3,952.09 crore. The allocation is more of a notional nature than targeted. The argument is that schemes in the ministries cannot be separated for the SCs/STs and for others. It is calculated at 16.2% shown under 789 minor heads. These figures are taken as allocation, without the actual flow of funds for them.
On an average, 70-75% of funds utilised are non-targeted. If critically examined, it shows that the major expenditure is incurred on survival of the SCs/STs. The total amount under the SCSP/TSP in 2013-14 was Rs 41,561.13 crore, out of which Rs 28,261.57 crore was on survival — about 68%. Of the remaining, 20% was on development, 11% on participation and 1% on protection.
Some of the states violate the utilisation norms and divert the funds to other schemes. In Odisha, Rs 40.51 crore was allocated for national highways and other purposes. In Uttar Pradesh, Rs 14.41 crore was diverted for staff training at the ITI Aliganj, Lucknow.
The schemes for the Dalits and Tribals’ development are not updated according to the changing needs. Implementing agencies give excuses and nodal officers are not usually designated. There are no separate cells in the ministries which can plan, monitor and coordinate. In the HRD ministry there is a team of 40 experts to supervise the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, but why not for the sub-plans? For the implementation of the SCSP/TSP there is an urgency to have monitoring cells at all levels comprising experts and people from the community.
The Union finance minister should look into this. Andhra Pradesh was the first state to legalise the SCSP/TSP, which means that funds allocated in this sub plan cannot be diverted. A stringent law is needed to punish those who misuse these funds. How can the cause of nationalism be espoused unless every section is included in the development cycle? Had there not been reservation and schemes to ameliorate the Dalits and tribals, they would have been languishing in every sphere, and at present, where there are no safeguards, they are excluded, like in the media, industry, share market, IT, etc.
Udit Raj is an MP from North-West Delhi
The views expressed by the author are personal