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Modi Govt Continues Neglect of Dalits, Adivasis

Budget allocations of the past five years show huge under-allocation despite clear norms.
Narendra Modi

In the past five years, dalit communities have been deprived of a staggering Rs 272 thousand crore while adivasis communities have suffered a loss of Rs.114 thousand crores due to drastic under-allocation in successive Budgets. This emerges from an analysis of Budgetary allocations done by National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and Dalit Arthik Adhikar Andolon (DAAA).

Here is how these losses are calculated: India has about 201 million dalits and 104 million adivasis, as per Census 2011. That’s about 16% and 8% of the total population, respectively. It was standard government policy to allocate that same proportion of funds from the Plan component of the Central Budget to programmes and schemes for dalits and adivasis, although earlier, too, allocations were less than this norm. 

Then, since the Modi government abolished Plan and Non-Plan differentiation in 2017-18, there was chaos, and for two years, such specific allocations were done by annual guidelines. Finally, based on a Finance Ministry circular of 2016, a system was put in place under which total allocation for all Central schemes and Centrally sponsored schemes was shared in the population proportions (16% for dalits and 8% for adivasis). 

So, deprivation from due amount means actual allocation (given separately in statements in the Budget documents) with the due amount as per norm.

The chart below shows annual due allocation and actual allocation for Dalits in past five years. Note that it never reaches the due amount. As a proportion it ranges between 7% and 9.3% with an average of 8.27% for these five years. That’s half of the due amount.


A similar situation exists in the case of allocations for adivasis, as shown in the chart below. It ranges between 4.6% and 5.9% with an average of about 5.4% for these five years.


It is clear from this that the Modi government has not been interested in actually spending money for uplift of dalit and adivasi communities, despite all the big talk and dramatic photo ops like washing the feet of dalit families or spending nights in the homes. Similarly, with adivasis.

Misuse of Allocations

However, this tragic tale does not end here. A chunk of even the limited allocated amount is spent on general schemes and programmes, although it is shown in the books as spent on these communities. For instance, in this year’s Budget it was revealed that Rs 756 crore was spent on “Compensation to Service Providers for creation and augmentation of telecom infrastructure Bharatnet” – except that this amount was shown under the specific allocation for dalit/adivasis! 

There may be need to spend money on this head, but it is not something that directly benefits dalits and adivasis. The separate allocation is meant for such specific needs. This may include scholarships or vocational training or other schemes which will directly help uplift these communities. General allocation should not be shown under specific heads meant for dalits and adivasis.

But this is a universally prevalent practice that has been going on from earlier and the Modi government has blithely carried it forward without batting an eyelid.

NCDHR-DAAA has calculated that out of the Rs.312 thousand crore allocated for dalits in these last five years, just Rs.112 thousand crore was spent on targeted schemes, while the balance of over Rs.200 thousand crore was spent on non-targeted ones, like the scheme mentioned above. Similarly, for Adivasis, of the nearly Rs.202 thousand crore allocation in five years, just Rs.85 thousand crore was spent on targeted schemes and nearly Rs.117 thousand crore went for non-targeted ones.

In light of this, it is small wonder that the conditions of dalits and adivasis continue to remain substantively the same – poor access to education and health, confined to low skill jobs, forced to live in hovels with meagre civic amenities – and considered second class citizens.

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