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Many ministries skeptical of Niti Aayog’s advice to allot funds for SC/ST sub plans

Last month, the Niti Aayog’s advised ministries and government departments to set up sub plans for spending on scheduled castes and tribes.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2017 18:46 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Niti Aayog,SC/ST sub plans,Fund allocation
The NITI Aayog is the premier government think tank which provides directional and policy inputs.(Hindustan Times)

Many ministries and government departments that do not have a component earmarked for spending on scheduled castes and tribes are unhappy with the Niti Aayog’s suggestion to set up such sub plans.

Some ministries such as coal and shipping that only have a ST sub plan component are unsure about how to allocate and utilise money that will be blocked for the purpose of SC sub plan.

All central ministries and departments have to set aside an allocation for the SC/ST sub plans that are used for the welfare of Dalits and tribal communities. While 26 ministries have a SC sub plan, 32 have a ST sub plan.

Last month, at a meeting chaired by Ratan P. Watal, Niti Aayog’s principal adviser (social sector), ministries and department were told to increase the allocation of funds for schemes aimed at promoting socio-economic interest of SCs and STs; it also asked those ministries that do not allocate funds for either category to assign the monies to such sub plans.

Sources in the government told Hindustan Times that based on Niti Aayog’s suggestion, the ministry of social justice and empowerment is likely to move a cabinet note soon to increase the number of ministries that have a SC sub plan from the current 26 to 41.

Even as the process to increase the ambit of the SC/ST sub plan gets underway, some officials have pointed out that the government should first focus on spending the allocated funds.

Read more: NITI Aayog’s 2022 vision paints an India free of poverty, casteism, communalism

“A large portion of these funds allocated under the SCSP and TSP by different ministries remain unutilised and goes back to exchequer at the end of fiscal; it makes little sense then to keep allocating funds without mechanisms to ensure they reach the beneficiaries,” said an official.

In the culture ministry for instance, the NITI Aayog suggestion has set off concerns about how to design schemes and allocate funds.

“The move is not feasible since we do not allocate funds to groom talent based on caste. We give financial assistance to promote arts and artists. Discriminating on the basis of caste is not logical,” a senior official in the ministry of culture told HT on condition of anonymity.

Similar concerns were expressed by the road infrastructure ministry.

Officials in the ministry too are learnt to have said that since the ministry already allocates funds for the tribal sub-plan it sees no merit in further putting aside money for the SC component.

“A special programme for development of roads in the Left Wing Extremism affected areas is run in addition to allocations under the tribal sub-plan in over eight states. Roads and highways are planned for better connectivity of far flung areas with high tribal population, we will have to consider how to create an additional budget for SC sub plan and how to utilise it,” a ministry official said.

Wattal could not be reached for his comments, but sources said among the suggestions put forth at the meeting were those calling formore funds to ministries such as the women and child development, human resource development and health ministry to enhance spending on schemes that are targeted at the beneficiaries.

It was also suggested that the housing ministry could be asked to spend more to ensure that Dalits and tribals who are eligible for housing for the poor benefit or the HRD ministry could increase the scope of its ongoing schemes to include more residential schools with better facilities for Dalits and tribals.

First Published: Nov 07, 2017 18:46 IST