By Umesh Babu, Ena Zafar, Raju Sarkar, Vibhor Tak*
The Union Government has allocated an additional budget for the Scheduled Castes (SCs) under the Special Component Plan (SCP) and for the Scheduled Tribes (STs) under the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP). These numbers are shown under Explanation 10A and Explanation 10B, respectively.
The allocation of Rs 1,26,259 crore in 2021-22 for the SC has increased to Rs 1,39,956 crore from the revised budget and has increased again in 2022-23 to Rs 1,42,342 crore ie 3 .61% of the total budget of the government.
Similarly, the budget allocated for STs has increased from Rs 79,942 crore in 2021-22 to Rs 87,473 crore and again to Rs 89,265 crore in 2022-23 in the revised budget; this is 2.26% of the total state budget (click here for details on allocations and expenditure in other years).
On the whole, we can call it an increased budget. However, there are some realities behind this budget, for example: In which heads is the money put? Does the budget reach the people? If not, where does this money go?
The Department of Agriculture has allocated Rs 20,472 crore for the SCs in 2022-23, of which Rs 2,667 crore is earmarked for Fasal Bima Yojana. Similarly, Rs 1,381 crore will be allocated for ST in this scheme.
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has reported that the Government of India (GoI) does not have the SC/ST beneficiary data on funds allocated under this program in previous years. Therefore, it cannot be confirmed how many SC/STs have benefited from it. The only confirmation is that the SC/ST welfare budget is awarded to the Agricultural Insurance Corporations (AICs) each year, equivalent to Rs 4,048 crore in 2022-23.
“3.3.9 Between 2011-12 and 2015-16, the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmer Welfare allocated and released Rs 2,381.33 crore specifically for coverage of SC and ST farmers under these schemes. However, AIC did not keep separate data on the financial support of these categories. Similarly, AIC did not maintain data on women farmers under the programs, although the 2013-14 NCIP guidelines required special efforts to ensure maximum coverage of the SC/ST category and the women farmers category, and DAC&FW had AIC ( December 2011) asked to do such information.” (CAG Report #7 of 2017, page 22)
The Ministry of Higher Education has allocated Rs 3,889 crore for SC year 2022-23, of which Rs 495 crore will be allocated to support Indian Institutes of Technologies (IITs). Similarly, Rs 240 crore will be allocated from the ST budget in this scheme. Regarding the funds allocated under this program in previous years, the report of the Comptroller General of India states that most places remain vacant for PG courses in these IITs and for PhD 75% SC and 95% ST places in Course remain vacant.
This means that in the coming fiscal year 2022-23 these institutions will use Rs 735 crore from the SC/ST budget share but they will not allow these students to easily enroll in higher education.
“(i) The percentage of shortfall in enrollment of SC students in graduate programs was significantly higher at IITGN (30 percent), IITH (25 percent), and IIT Mandi (23 percent). The shortage of ST students was high in all eight IITs, ranging from 7 percent (IIT Ropar) to 69 percent (IITGN).
“(ii) The percentage of missing enrollments in PhD courses was very high in relation to the ST category, ranging from 73 percent (IITH) to 100 percent (IITJ). Also with respect to SC students, the deficit was significantly higher (more than 50 percent) in all IITs except IITH and IITBBS, where it was 25 percent and 28 percent, respectively. In the OBC category, the backlog was high for IITGN (37 percent), IIT Ropar (36 percent) and IIT Mandi (32 percent).” (CAG Report #20 of 2021, page 42)
Anomalies in budget allocation for SC/ST
In reviewing the 2016-17 budget, it was found that there are many departments that do not have a plan for SC/ST but are using their budget extensively. The neglect is going on to such an extent that the CAG had asked for corrections of such budget formulations/preparation at least four times, but the Department was unaware of this.
It is not possible to talk about all the ministries but the Department of Tribal Welfare which is the node ministry for tribal welfare and the way it neglects the accounting procedures whilst preparing the budget itself makes many things of self clear.
“The audit found that of the total provision of Rs. 1,250 crore, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs released Rs. 1,195.03 crore as “Special Central Assistance for Tribal Sub Plan” in 2016-17 and booked this under the subheading “796 -Tribal Area Sub Plan” in Grant No 89 relating to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. The same had to be provided and posted under the subheading “794 – Special Central Support for Tribal Subplan” as required by the existing instructions.
“The matter was also noted in the CAG’s Report #1 on Union Governments’ Accounts for Financial Years 2012-13, 2013-14, Report #50 for 2014-15 and Report #34 for 2015-16.
“In response to Report No. 34 for 2015-16, the Ministry had given assurances (July 2016) that sub-header ‘794’ in the DDG would be opened for 2017-18 for special centralized support for tribal sub-plan.
However, DDG’s audit for 2017-18 revealed that an amount of Rs. 1,350.00 crore was set aside as a provision for ‘Special Central Support for Tribal Sub-Schemes’ under Major Heads-2225, 2552 and 3601 in Minor Got head ‘796’ instead of ‘794’.
“The Department stated (August 2017) that it was on issue with the Treasury Department to open a new sub-header 794 to allow expenditure under the Central Support for Tribesmen special program to be accounted for under a separate sub-header 794, as per the general instructions included in the list of principal and subsidiary account managers.” (CISA Report on Union Government Accounts 2016-17, page 132)
Well-being of Safai Karamcharis?
Responsibility for the welfare of Safai Karmacharis rests with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the Node Ministry for the Welfare of SC. This ministry stopped uploading its Detailed Grant Application (DDG) to its website as of 2019-20. Therefore, people do not know the details of the household they put in the house. Their DDG-based data is only available up to the year 2019-20 (click here for details).
Safai Karmacharis have suffered the most from the Corona pandemic and are facing the most severe existential crisis
The figures the Union government is submitting to the House in its Statement 10A mention two plans related to Safai Karamcharis. Let’s consider one of the programs “Independence and Rehabilitation Program”, since this layer has suffered the most from the corona pandemic and has had the most severe existential crisis.
When the questions were asked in Parliament about the deaths of sanitation workers in the sewers, the responses raised some other questions that need to be answered. In response to Lok Sabha Question #261 of February 4, 2020, two attachments are given. Appendix-I provides the details of the states where Safai Karamcharis have been identified and have been granted one-time cash assistance of Rs 40,000 per rehabilitation until 13 January 2020.
Appendix-II contains the details of the states that have granted compensation to the families of the deceased plumbing workers under Supreme Court orders. The states of Assam, Jharkhand and Odisha are mentioned in Annexure-I but not in Annexure-II: this means that no sanitation workers died in these states.
In response to Question No. 256 of November 19, 2019, Annex-II details the compensation to be awarded to the families of the deceased Safai Karamcharis in 36 States/Union Territories. Taking Delhi state as an example, according to this description, as of June 30, 2019, a total of 49 sanitation workers have died in sewer accidents in Delhi.
However, in response to question #261 of February 4, 2020 in Appendix II, as of January 15, 2020, a total of 89 sanitation workers have died in sewage accidents. This means that between June 30, 2019 and January 15, 2020 (approximately in seven months) 40 (89 – 49 = 40) sanitation workers died in sewage accidents in Delhi.
It is not known if this is true, but if it is, then the situation is very critical, since budget cuts are also being made within the self-employment system for their rehabilitation. The situation is more or less similar in other federal states.
The provisions made for this in the state budget and the answers to the questions asked in the house are proof of the naked truths of denial of justice. The budget sends a message across the country that the government is constitutional and friendly to the Dalits and Adivasi. But really, it’s all a numbers game.
*With Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch