Most states do not utilise the fund allocated for the welfare of SC/ST, minorities and economically backward sections of the society in the country, according to data presented in the Lok Sabha by the Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, A Narayanaswamy.
The data regarding social welfare schemes was presented by the Minister of State while answering a question asked by Upendra Singh, Bharatiya Janata Party's MP from Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh.
The data revealed several issues with the allocation and utilisation of funds and the implementation of schemes across the country. The minister, however, did not provide reasons for the lack of utilisation of funds, even though a question was asked regarding it.
Analysis of the data shows that the number of beneficiaries of different welfare schemes for students from the SC and SC communities has remained stagnant over the last three years.
The minister said in his answer that for successful implementation of the schemes, the government undertakes steps like mandatory annual inspections by District Authorities, scrutiny of proposals by multidisciplinary State Level Grants-in-aid Committee, mandatory submission of audited statement of accounts, utilisation certificate and periodic review by holding meetings at the national level, state level, district level and field visits. He added, "The Department also undertakes periodic review of the implementation of the schemes through third-party evaluation studies. The studies have found that these schemes are achieving desired objectives and have recommended their continuation."
However, the minister did not elaborate on how these schemes help those entitled to the benefits or how the allocation of funds under the schemes has decreased over the past few years.
According to the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), the Government announced Rs 35,000 crore for 5 years with a total of Rs 7,000 crore per year for the Post Matric Scholarship for SCs. However, in the budget for FY 2021-2022, only Rs 3,866 crores have been allocated for SC students, while for STs, the allocation is Rs 2,146 crores. According to the NCDHR, this amount is insufficient to cater to the growing demand of students.
One look at the data shows that the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment allocation has steadily decreased over the past few years by 16% between FY 2018-19 and FY 2020-21.
The funds released under the Scheme of Special Central Assistance to Tribal Sub-Scheme (SCA to TSS) and under the Scheme of ‘Grant-in-Aid to Voluntary organisations working for the Welfare of STs' during the last three years, also show a similar trend.
According to the minister, based on surprise inspections by the PMU State Coordinators and the complaints received, Grant-in-Aid to 111 organisations has been stopped under the Scheme of Assistance for Prevention of Alcoholism and Substance (Drugs) Abuse and National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (NAPDDR), 85 projects have been stopped under National Action Plan for Senior Citizen (NAPSrC), and 42 projects have been found under-performed under the Scheme of Grant-in-aid to Voluntary and other Organisations Working for Scheduled Castes.
The funds released under the 'Support to Tribal Research Institutes' scheme have also seen a significant decline between 2018-19 and 2020-21. So have the funds allocated for most of the other social welfare schemes.
However, despite the decreasing allocation, most states did not report utilisation of the amount released to them. There is a massive difference between the funds released and the utilisation reported by the states.
The minister did not give a reason for this, nor did he mention whether the Union government had taken or was planning to take any steps to ensure the better utilisation of the funds. The NCDHR said that they were not utilised even when budget allocations were made for schemes benefiting the SC & ST communities. This gap between the budget allocated for respective schemes and their actual utilisation is defined as the “budget credibility gap”. They said in the Dalit Adivasi Budget Analysis 2021-22, “As it is, the budgetary allocations are meagre, to begin with, and if even these budgets remain unutilised, it essentially questions the credibility and intention of the government towards the affected communities.”
The data presented in the Lok Sabha has raised more questions than it has answered. One cannot help but wonder if the Union government and the state governments genuinely care about the upliftment and empowerment of those belonging to the most marginalised sections of society.
According to the NCDHR, there is a total gap in the allocation of Rs 1,12,863 crores under the SC Budget and Rs 60,247 crores under the ST Budget. Out of the total budget allocated for SCs, only Rs 48,397 crores has been allocated towards Targeted schemes (4.5%), and for STs, it is Rs 27,830 crores (2.6%). Thus, most of the allocations are either notional or general in nature.
Data compiled by the NCDHR shows that the allocations for SC and ST communities are even falling short of the norms prescribed by Niti Aayog itself. In this financial year, the allocation stands at Rs 1,26,259 crores for Scheduled Castes and Rs 79,942 crores for Scheduled Tribes. 330 schemes for SCs and 326 schemes for STs have been allocated under AWSC (Allocation for Welfare of Scheduled Castes) & AWST (Allocation for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes), respectively. The proportion of targeted schemes under the SC budget is 38% with an allocation of Rs 48,397 crore and 35% under the ST budget with an allocation of Rs 27,830 crore. However, according to NCDHR, “These are in fact only ‘general schemes’, with a mask of SC & ST budget schemes. They do not qualify as SC & ST schemes that benefit the intended communities.”