Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government boasted about the ‘AtmaNirbhar’ budget this year, Dalit and Adivasi groups have slammed their allocations and termed the Union Budget a lackluster effort in which their communities’ requirements have been made invisible.
The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and DASAM – Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch – released their analyses of the budget on Tuesday in separate press conferences.
In its report the NCDHR highlighted gaps in the allocation made for most of the marginalised groups. “We find that SCs & STs lose significant amounts owed to them due to scheme credibility gaps and budget credibility gaps. There is a total gap in allocation of Rs 1,12,863 Cr under SC Budget and Rs 60,247 Cr under ST Budget. Out of the total budget allocated for SCs, only Rs 48,397 Cr has been allocated towards Targeted schemes that accounts (4.5%) and for STs it Rs 27,830 Cr (2.6%). Thus, most of the allocations are either notional or general in nature (sic),” it said.
Speaking to NewsClick, N. Paul Divakar, a Dalit activist and former general secretary of the NCDHR said: “The fraud of notional schemes continue in the budget wherein the Dalit and the Adivasi communities are continuing to struggle for their due share. Despite an increase in the budget on paper there are a large number of notional schemes that do not reach SC/ST communities.”
Students, Women and Manual Scavengers More Vulnerable
The Post Matric Scholarship is a lifeline for students from the Dalit and Adivasi communities. The scheme covers more than six million students from the poorest of the poor families across the country whose annual income is below Rs 2.50 lakhs.
“There have been constant attacks by the government on the rights granted to Dalits and Adivasis. While the scheme already lacks in implementation at various levels, the government, instead of addressing the challenges, was on the road to scrap the scholarship. The Central Government scheme had nearly shut down across more than 14 states including Bihar, Punjab, Maharashtra and funds to states were not being released under a 2017 formula. Moreover, the allocation for the Post Matric Scholarship for SCs is Rs 3415.62 Crs and for STs it is Rs 1993 Crs which is insufficient to cater to the growing demand of students,” the NCDHR said.
Speaking to NewsClick, Beena Pallical from the NCDHR said: “The allocations are disappointing to say the least. Although it seems like there is an increase in the total amount in the budget, when one goes through it with a fine-tooth comb one understands that most of the allocation is for schemes that do not go directly to the communities. The promise of allocating Rs 7,000 Crs for Post Matric Scholarship also was not kept.”
In the backdrop of Hathras, where a young Dalit woman was raped by upper-caste men, the issue of allocations for ensuring the security and development of Dalit and Adivasi women has become crucial. About 42,000 cases were registered under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in 2018 alone. However, the allocation for the implementation of the PoA (Prevention of atrocities) Act and the implementation of PCR Act (Protection of civil rights) is a mere Rs 600 Crs, wherein allocation to address violence against Dalit women is only Rs 180 Crs. The amount is not enough to cope with crimes against Dalits and Adivasis each year, experts say. The NCDHR had suggested various schemes, like an allocation of Rs 3,500 Crs for Dalit and Adivasi women in paramedical and nursing colleges. Keeping in mind the unemployment of underprivileged women, a fund of Rs 3,300 Cr ‘SC ST Women Employment Fund’ had been proposed. A housing scheme called Savitri Bai Phule Housing programme was also suggested to ensure the housing and security for SC, ST women.
Activists also slammed the government’s tendency to consolidate various flagship schemes under one big umbrella programme, thereby making it difficult to assess the allocations to individual schemes. For instance, critical schemes such as Anganwadi (former ICDS), National Nutrition Mission, National Creche Scheme etc, fall under the umbrella scheme called ‘Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0’. There are limited budgetary provisions addressing the needs of the SC and ST women. An NCDHR analysis of GBS and Allocation for Welfare of Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe (AWSC/AWST) revealed that the allocations are meagre, reflecting the lack of priority given to Dalit and Adivasi women.
Activists also highlighted the under-utilisation of funds allocated for manual scavengers. The amount of Rs 110 crores allocated for the rehabilitation of manual scavengers in 2020-21 remained un-utilised. The MSJE (Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment) did not release any funds for the current year as the earlier allocated funds were not utilised.
“The amount of Rs. 110 crores allocated for the rehabilitation of manual scavengers for the period of 2020-21 remains unutilised. The MSJE did not release any funds for the current year as the earlier allocated funds are still not utilized.16 For FY 2021-22, an amount of Rs. 100 Cr is allocated which is Rs. 10 Cr lesser than the previous allocation which raises serious concerns. According to the data presented by the MSJE from 17 states, there are 63,246 identified manual scavengers. For the FY 2021-22, an amount of Rs. 50 Cr has been allocated to National Safai Karamchari Finance and Development Corporation, which is capital expenditure and will have no direct impact on the livelihood of manual scavengers,” the NCDHR report said.