It is common for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) to receive less than their due share in resources that are allocated each year through the union and state budgets.
Continuing with this trend, in this year’s budget too, the two socially and economically oppressed groups have been given less than half of what is due to them.
A little over a quarter of all the money allocated towards Central Sector and Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSCSS) in every union budget is supposed to be reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC), as per the Special Component Plan (SCP), and Scheduled Tribes (ST), as per the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP).
The special allocation — 16.6% for SCs or Dalits and 8.6% for STs or Adivasis — is to ensure the flow of targeted financial and physical benefits from all the general sectors of development for the benefit of the two most marginalized communities in India.
In the budget 2020-21, Finance Minister Nirmala Seetharaman announced a total allocation of ₹83,256 crore for Dalits, which is 8.5% of the total budget, and ₹53,652 crore for Adivasis, which is only 5.6% of the total CSCSS outlay.
“On the surface, it seems like the government has allocated ₹1,000 crore extra this year for Dalits and Adivasis. But the fine print shows that they have been allocated less than half of what is due to them as per the SCP and the STP,” said Beena Pallikal from the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) in Delhi.
According to her calculation, Dalits should have been allocated at least ₹1.5 lakh crore instead of ₹83,256 crore and Adivasis should have got another ₹One lakh crore instead of ₹53, 652 crore.
“In states like Karnataka, the special allocations for SCs and STs are bound by law. Governments cannot go around it or arbitrarily reduce the allocations. We have been fighting for the same law at the central level,” Pallikal says, “Right now there are only guidelines which are not binding on the central government.”
She also cited the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics and said that there have been more than 50,000 heinous crimes against Dalits and Adivasis and over 9,000 crimes against women from the community.
“The allocation for better implementation of the SC/ST Atrocities Act is only ₹165 crore this year. It has gone down from ₹189 crore last year. We don’t even know if last year’s funds were spent,” she says.
Rahul Sakpal, Assistant Professor of Economics at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai, says, “The most shocking omission from this budget document is details of unspent money. In each budget, it is a convention to mention how much allocated money could not be fully spent. This year, they have conveniently struck that section off from the budget document.”
Sakpal’s interest, though, is in the funds allocated towards Post Matriculation scholarships.
“The Finance Minister has claimed that the number of students benefitting from scholarships has increased in 2019-20. In fact, in the previous year, the scholarship budget was slashed by half, it also became a major issue. How then did the number of student beneficiaries go up?”
Beena Pallikal also points out that a bulk of the funds allocated for SCs and STs have been in the farm sector such as the Rainfed Areas Development and Climate Change, National Mission on Horticulture, PM Safal Bima Yojana.
“More than 22,000 crores has been spent on the farm economy. But the fact is that Dalits and Adivasis do not own farmland and hence cannot benefit from these schemes. This kind of heavy allocation in the farm sector has been continuing for a few years. We need to look at how much unspent money is there from these schemes,” she said.
She also pointed to the FM’s promise that manual scavenging will be mechanized and said, “Despite the claims, only ₹40 crore has been allocated to the National Finance Corporation for Safai Karmachari and only ₹110 crore for the Self Employment and Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers.”
Avani Kapur, from the Centre for Policy Research in Delhi, says that the biggest surprise this year is the 13% decline in the fund allocation to the MNREGS. From ₹71,002 crore in 2019-20 revised estimates to just ₹61,500 crore this year.
“With real rural wages declining for eight straight months ending October, one would have assumed that MNREGS would have received a boost,” she said.