Mumbai: Dodhibai Punya Vasave is tribal woman from Chimankhedi village from Akrani tehsil of Nandurbar. It is one of the many tribal villages in the district. Dodhibai is 58 years old lady, and has no land. Both her sons left for labour work in Surat, Gujarat, this September. Since then, bereft of any earnings, Dodhibai is surviving on help from her neighbours.
"Dodhibai should have got Rs 2,000, as announced by state government. But she hasn't. We are following up the matter with the teshil and post offices but they say the money hasn't been released yet," said Narsu Vasave, Dodhibai's neighbour.
In Thane's Murbad tehsil, NewsClick met Harji Padavi, a tribal labourer working in the fields. He originally hails from Nandurbar's Shahada tehsil and came to Murbad for work. He, too, says he hasn't received a penny from the state government’s financial aid for tribals. He, however, said that he does get money from other schemes directly into his bank account.
"I read that state government is supposed to give us Rs 2,000. But nothing has come," said Harji Padvi.
Both Dodhibai and Padvi are among 11.55 lakh tribal families listed for financial assistance from the state government but haven’t received a single rupee till now.
After COVID-19 hit the state badly, the Maharashtra government had announced the financial aid to 11.55 lakh tribal families in the state. The decision was taken on August 12. As per this decision, Rs 2000 was supposed to be transferred either in bank accounts or delivered by post to these families. Also, essential food items were to be given to these families, such as dal, rice, foodgrains and salt, sugar etc.
On September 9, the state issued a government resolution. On September 30, the detailed guidelines were also issued to keep the officers and others informed about the urgency and necessity of the matter. But, despite all this, nothing has moved till the date.
Sources in Maharashtra's tribal ministry told NewsClick that the file regarding deposit of money into the accounts of tribal families is stuck between the tribal and finance ministries.
"My department is in process to deliver at the earliest. We will see that implementation starts at the earliest," said state tribal minister KC Padvi.
According to the data available with tribal ministry, total 11.55 lakh tribal families have been affected by this red- tapism. This number was is decided after identifying families that 'urgently needed' help. The number of families that went for MNREGA (rural job guarantee scheme) work from April 1,2019 to March 31, 2020 are four lakh, there are 2.26 lakh from most backward tribal communities, three lakh families are benefitting from various schemes, 64,000 families belong to the Pardhi tribal community (which mainly survives on hunting and land labour) and 1.65 lakh are those who have gained forest rights. All these 11.55 lakh families have their data ready with state government and need just a clearance from the finance ministry for Rs 2,000 to be sent directly to their accounts.
The tribal ministry is with Congress in Maharashtra. With the pandemic forcing limitations on state government spending, the state finance ministry has already issued a note on 50-65% cut in budgetary allocations of many departments.
In such a scenario, it is tribal welfare that is taking a big hit. However, according to sources in Maharashtra government, the ‘delay’ in releasing the amount promised to tribals is not just due to administrative or financial reasons but also political.
"The finance ministry is with NCP (Nationalist Congress Party). It is clearing proposals by NCP ministers or Shiv Sena ministers. Congress's proposals are purposely being neglected. The issue has been raised in Congress's ministers meeting on many times. But nothing has been happened," alleged a source.
An NCP MLA from a tribal-dominated district also said that the delay in clearing the payments was generating the anger in people. "When the announcement came (on August 12) we welcomed it and addressed special press conferences. We were given the impression that the money will be transferred before Diwali. But nothing has happened so far. People have been asking us about what happened to the government money," he said.
Vinod Nikole, a Communist party of India (Marxist) MLA from Dahanu constituency of Palghar has written to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, finance minister Ajit Pawar, tribal minister KC Padavi and others.
"Actually, the government should have announced the money in April itself. But they took four months to just make an announcement. Nothing has happened since then. This delay is atrocious. I am going to raise the issue in the coming Winter session (of the Assembly)," said Nikole.