Lip service to justice
The Scheduled Castes and Tribes have been denied over one lakh crore rupees during the Eleventh Plan, says the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights. Uttar Pradesh has been most efficient in the allocation and utilisation of the funds.
During the Eleventh Plan period (2007-12), a whopping Rs 1,00,215 crore has been denied to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes under the Sub-Plans of the Government, according to National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR). The total plan budget for the XIth Five Year plan (minus transfer to States and Union Territories) was Rs 11,99,944 crore. Of this, 16.2 per cent or Rs 1,94,391 cr was due as per Sub Plan but allocation for only Rs 94,176 cr was made. The figures have been arrived at by an analysis according to Statement 21 of the Expenditure Vol. 1 of Union Government, says Paul Divakar, General Secretary, NCDHR.
The SCSP and TSP are important mechanisms in closing the gap between the SCs, STs and other sections of society by directing plan resources to these disadvantaged groups in proportion to their share in the population. But ministries and departments have openly shown disinclination in the implementation of the Plans. According to the Planning Commission, of 83 ministries and departments, only 17 have made allocations under the Plans. According to NCDHR, 23 of these have pleaded indivisibility while the rest 42 have neither allocated nor given reasons for non-allocation.
The formulation and implementation of the SCSP and TSP has been deficient and fallen short of meeting their objectives both at the Centre and in the States, Ms Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of the National Advisory Council has said in a letter dated December 20, 2011 to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.
“The SCSP/ TSP set apart are not meant to be parked with any ministry, but needs to be allocated to ministries and departments for implementing such schemes which are directly benefiting SC/ST individuals/ households or SC/ST localities. The allocation to the ministries/ departments which are already implementing such schemes should be protected and if need be, augmented if they have high potential to bridge the development gaps of SC/ST. The practice of showing notional outflows by ministries/ departments to account for SCSP/TSP should be discontinued,” she has said in the letter.
The Planning Commission has also admitted that the implementation of SCSP and TSP leaves much to be desired and applies equally to the Central as well as state governments. Though there may be several reasons for this lacklustre implementation, lack of statutory or clear-cut administrative sanction is an important one, the Commission has said.
Despite this, most states have little will or no idea on how to implement the SCSP and TSP. According to R. Ravi Kumar, Secretary National Dalit Forum, Uttar Pradesh, by far, has been most efficient in the allocation and utilisation of the funds.
“Apart from building Ambedkar bastis or dalit hamlets, most of the funds have been spent thoughtfully and comprehensively in developing model villages, roads, toilets and schools in UP,” he says.
Uttarakhand and Puducherry are the other States that have shown some utilisation of the funds with the latter spending mostly on education, even paying capitation fees of students, he says. Tamil Nadu has spent it on income generating schemes such as production of electricity through wind energy and funding entrepreneurs. Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh have been making allocations but going through with less than 20 per cent spending. AP irrigation department spent the amount for cleaning the Musi river, while the horticulture department spent it on greening the city through public gardens, he says.
In one of its papers, the Commission has recommended the adoption and implementation of the Maharashtra model of SCSP and TSP by all States and Union Territories.
Of the Ministries, Civil Aviation, Mines, Surface Transport, Coal and Steel, have written saying they are not obliged to make allocations under SCSP and TSP, according to Ravi Kumar. Defence has said it cannot consider SCP and TSP, while Shipping, Road, Transport and Highways have said that outlays are not made under caste, creed, religion or regional basis, according to Ravi Kumar. They also say that funds spent for SC/Ts under general welfare schemes such as MGNREGs, Indira Awas Yojana and other programmes should be accounted for under SCSP and TSP.
Around 80 per cent of SC communities live in rural areas, according to the Commission. They constitute more than a fifth of the population of UP, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal. Punjab has the highest proportion of SCs to the State population.
In order to remove centuries of discrimination and provide equal opportunities of growth to the most vulnerable sections of the population, the TSP was formulated in 1976, followed by Special Component Plan for SCs in 1978 (recently renamed the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan). Despite every other approach paper stressing its importance and the highest offices of the government claiming to take it up seriously, more than three decades have passed with little or no improvement in the situation of the vast majority of the target population.
Voicing the concern of human rights groups, Karthik Navayan, Programme Officer, National Dalit Forum says that the Sub-Plans will not work unless made into an Act.