The slogan Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas didn’t just win the current government the 2014 elections, it also inspired many Budget trackers to look closely at the allocations for the most marginalised identity groups, i.e. the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe populations.
From National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR, a human rights and advocacy coalition dedicated to the agenda of Dalits and Adivasis), Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA, a premier Budget tracking NGO) to Delhi Solidarity Group (DSG, a liberal, progressive coalition of people’s movements), tracking annual budgets from the perspective of Dalit and Adivasis has become a done thing.
Additionally, the Indian Constitution, in the spirit of affirmative action, mandates top-up pro-rata allocation of resources to Dalit and Adivasis (matching their population percentage in each state) to ensure their uplift. The provisions are Scheduled Caste Special Component Plan (SCP) and the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP), which mandate 16.6 per cent of additional central assistance to Dalits (reflecting the Dalit population share in India) and 8.6 per cent to Adivasis (matching the Adivasi demographic).
But the 2017-18 Budget did away with the Plan-Non Plan distinction. This author has written about this earlier when the Budget did away with the distinction. With the government moving away from the system of five-year plans, the distinction between Plan and Non-Plan is going to be a thing of the past once the new Budget comes into effect. Plan expenditure was spending incurred on programmes and schemes of the government detailed under the prevailing Five-Year Plan, including all kinds of expenditure on schemes, whether on Recurring, or Revenue or Capital heads. Taking Sarva Siksha Abhiyan as an example – expenditure on teachers’ salary constituted Plan Revenue Expenditure as did construction of school buildings.
Non-Plan expenditure included interest payments, subsidies, salary and pension payments (for regular cadre staff across sectors), police, defence, expenditure on maintenance of assets or infrastructure across sectors constituted Non-Plan expenditure.
In important development sectors, more than two-thirds of total public spending has come from Non-Plan expenditure. For example, the government made allocations to the rural development ministry for building roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana as Plan Expenditure, but their maintenance belonged to Non-Plan budget. Under this year’s Budget, all these expenditures will be reported together.
Merger of Plan and Non-Plan makes tracking allocations for Dalits and Adivasis a challenge. Hence NCDHR has done a deep-dive analysis of allocations along with public expenditure tracking too. While the allocations do not measure up, the under-expenditure is the bigger concern, states Paul Divakar, convenor, NCDHR.
Union Budget 2018-19 allocated 6.55 per cent towards welfare of SCs from the total eligible Centrally Sponsored Schemes & Central Sector Scheme. This is 10.50 per cent short of approximately 16.6 per cent to maintain proportionate allocation.
Union Budget 2018-19 allocated 4.53 per cent towards welfare of STs from the total eligible Centrally Sponsored Schemes & Central Sector Scheme. This is 4.07 per cent short of approximately 8.6 per cent to maintain proportionate allocation.
The government is yet to issue guidelines towards allocation of proportionate resources towards the development of SCs and STs in the changed scenario of Plan-Non Plan merger and abolition of five-year plans.
Only 31 out of 279 schemes meant for SCs and 52 out of 305 schemes for STs are appropriate, accessible, and available. None of the schemes meant for SCs and STs have inbuilt accountability mechanisms, making access difficult, explains Divakar.
NCDHR has analysed the outcomes and outputs of 233 schemes implemented by 26 different ministries and departments under the SCC (Scheduled Caste Component) and 273 schemes under 32 ministries and departments under the STC (Scheduled Tribe Component) for FY 2017-18.
It stands out that except for 33 schemes implemented under the SCC, rest of the 206 schemes don’t take into account any of the priorities or needs of the SC community at the planning and the outcome level. Similarly, 227 schemes out of 273 schemes implemented under the STC don’t even mention ST communities in their outcome document.
There is more focus on the output part as compared to overall outcome which means schemes are mostly designed to achieve quantitative targets and overlook the development gaps arising from social inequalities, based on caste discrimination and geographical isolation of SC and ST communities, respectively.
To understand the enormity of the under-spend concern, consider the education scheme: Budget 2018-19 has allocated Rs 3000 crore under SCC and Rs 1,586 crore under STC towards Post-Matric Scholarship scheme for SCs and STs. This is a key scheme to ensure access to education by students from the community.
In response to questions raised by MPs in the recent session of Parliament, more than Rs 8,000 crore was outstanding in all states due to inadequacy of funds. Over 51 lakh Dalit students and over 20 lakh Adivasi students across the country are facing difficulties and challenges due to pending/outstanding fund of more than Rs 8000 crore and Rs 3,156 crore to SC and ST students by the Union government to the state governments over the last three consecutive years.
This has resulted in discontent among students and drop-outs among the already marginalised, especially considering they come from indigent background and many have been debarred from private educational institutions, since their scholarships have shrunk or not come through.
Similarly, the exclusive courts for Prevention of Atrocities have not been set up in 445 of 640 districts in the country. And the budget allocation to fast-track the setting of these courts is inadequate, not to mention the human resources, judiciary, investigative personnel needed for these courts.
Divakar of NCDHR concludes: “There have been substantial gaps in the utilisation of the allocated amounts due to faulty design, non-participation of the SC-ST community at the planning stage, execution stage and notional allocations. This needs to be urgently addressed.”
It is ironical that the special components for SCs and STs have been visionary but the purpose remains defeated due to gross under-allocations, notional and general allocations with massive scope for creative accounting and fund diversion.
Top that with unspent amount, and we have the perfect recipe for further marginalising the already marginalised, explains Divakar!
The Jadhav Committee guidelines (headed by Dr Narendra Jadhav, academic and former MP) had provided for a framework for effective implementation. But it also made 43 ministries/departments ‘non-obligatory’. This has shrunk the total eligible allocations to a very small size.
Post-merger of Plan and Non-Plan and restructuring of schemes, the planning and allocations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe development has totally been neglected. In the absence of clear guidelines, accountable mechanisms and participation of SC and ST communities in the scheme design and planning, the objectives of Scheduled Castes Component and the Scheduled Tribe Component are increasingly becoming non-starters, shares Divakar.
Considering the fact that, the Hon’ble Supreme Court, as part of the Right to Food litigation, in 2005, highlighted the rampant discrimination in public funded programmes and hence mandated priority provisioning of supplementary nutrition, early child development centres i.e. anganwadi centres, in Dalit and Adivasi hamlets, and recruitment of staff from the community (so they are invested in the community and do not discriminate).
They also mandated monitoring of the same via the Supreme Court’s commissioner’s office, and nodal departments at the state level. The merger of Plan Non-Plan budgets has rendered tracking almost impossible. It is like taking many steps back in the context of budget transparency and affirmative allocations, say Dalit and Adivasi rights’ champions.
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