Budget: Centre increases funds for SC, ST welfare initiatives
The NDA government has increased allocations to programmes for the welfare of Scheduled Castes by 35% and of Scheduled Tribes by 28% in the interim budget in election year.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government increased allocations to programmes for the welfare of Scheduled Castes by 35% and of Scheduled Tribes by 28% in the interim budget on Friday - an election-year announcement meant to reach out to communities that form nearly 25% of India’s population.
Announcing the allocation in the interim budget, Union finance minister Piyush Goyal said, a “substantial increase” is proposed in the allocation for the welfare of the SC/ST communities. This allocation is for programmes under various ministries and departments and is known as the SC sub-plan.
“The allocation of ₹56,619 crore made in Budget estimate (BE) of 2018-19 for Scheduled Caste, further increased to ₹62,474 crore in revised estimate is proposed to be enhanced to ₹76,801 crore in BE for 2019-20, an increase of 35.6% over BE of 2018-19,” Goyal said. For STs, the proposed allocation in 2019-20 BE is ₹50,086 crore as against ₹39,135 crore in BE 2018-19, an increase of 28%.
Scheduled Castes form 16.2% and Schedule Tribes 8.2% of India’s population as per the 2011 census.
The government has increased the allocations under various heads to the ministry of social justice and empowerment, the nodal agency for implementing and monitoring measures for the welfare of SCs, STs and other backward classes (OBCs). The allocation for national fellowships for SCs has gone up by ₹20 crore; the allocations for providing free coaching to SC and OBC students, and to give them overseas scholarships have also gone up.
Though the ministry’s overall allocation shows a dip from ₹9,963.25 crore (revised estimate, or RE) to ₹7,524.99 crore, according to officials this is on account of the allocation for post-matric scholarships provided in the RE.
“The BE allocation in 2018-19 was ₹7,750 crore; an additional ₹2,213 was provided in the RE to meet the arrears of post matric scholarships,” said a ministry official who asked not to be named.
The government, which was accused of being anti-Dalit by its political rivals after cases of lynching and flogging over allegations of cow slaughter were reported in Rajasthan and Gujarat, has been trying to woo the communities.
Last year, it announced sops such as raising the allocation for welfare programmes and by brining an ordinance to reverse a top court order on SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act that barred the automatic arrests of violators.
Commenting on the increased allocation, Dalit ideologue Chandra Bhan Prasad said what is critical is actual spending. “There is a difference between the bank sanctioning an amount and actually disbursing it. This has happened earlier as well, even during the UPA’s [United Progressive Alliance’s] tenure - money was allocated but not spent. Until that happens, it is just an exercise to get media [attention],” he said.
For nomadic tribes
Goyal also announced the setting up of a welfare development board under the ministry of social justice and empowerment for development programmes for denotified, nomadic and demi-nomadic communities and a committee under the Niti Aayog to complete the task of identifying these communities.
“The board shall ensure that special strategies are designed and implemented to serve these hard-to-reach communities,” he said.
In 2018, a national commission for denotified, nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes (NCDNT) headed by Bhiku Ramji Idate, suggested carving out sub-quotas within the existing reservation policy to include these communities in the ambit of caste-based quotas.
On Friday, Idate said the announcements made in the budget speech are a “good step”. “Identification of these communities is a tactical step. I remain hopeful that the government will implement my recommendations,” he said.