Budget proposals bare SC/ST neglect

The budget proposals unveiled last week have allotted much less than the share expected for the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, prompting researchers to call it a continuation of a "history of neglect and casualness".

By Basant Kumar Mohanty
  • Published 6.02.18
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New Delhi: The budget proposals unveiled last week have allotted much less than the share expected for the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, prompting researchers to call it a continuation of a "history of neglect and casualness".

P.S. Krishnan, a researcher and former secretary in what was then the ministry of welfare, said support for Dalits and tribal people had remained grossly inadequate.

The allocation for SCs is 5.58 per cent of the outlay for all government schemes; for STs it is 3.86 per cent.

Dalits account for 16.6 per cent of the country's population and STs 8.6 per cent.

According to the Centre's Special Component Plan (SCP) and Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP), the government should set aside at least 16.6 per cent of its spending for the welfare of SCs and 8.6 per cent for STs, though the policy has no legal backing.

Krishnan said the earmarked funds were not enough and the government should come up with independent ones, not common schemes, specifically for the SCs and STs.

"These communities lag behind in literacy, enrolment, learning outcome, nutrition, access to land and jobs and access to good houses and electricity, etc. The government ideally should plan specific schemes for the SCs and STs to help them bridge the gap with the general population. The budget only speaks about one Ekalavya school (residential institute for tribal students in villages) but makes no allocation for it," Krishnan said.

He said China could make much progress in the last 60 years only because it did not have a caste system and ensured that every family got some land.

Krishnan said a government-appointed committee - he was one of the members - had found there was enough government land that could be distributed among landless Dalits in rural areas.

He said the post-matriculation scholarship scheme for Dalit students offered by the ministry of social justice and empowerment - as the welfare ministry is now called - had run up arrears of Rs 11,000 crore while the budget had allocated Rs 3,000 crore.

"It is a continuation of a history of neglect and casualness for SCs and STs," he said.

Paul Divakar, general secretary of the National Campaign for Dalit and Human Rights, said inadequate allocation for SCs and STs had always been the trend.

"Several schemes aimed at development of all citizens show a part of the spending being made for the welfare of SCs and STs. That is not the objective of the SCP and the TSP. Focused schemes like residential schools and nutrition programmes for SCs and STs should be launched," Divakar said.

He called for a law to ensure that Dalits and tribal people got allocations proportionate to their population.