Ours is an unequal society. There is extreme economic inequality as well as sharp social inequality in the Indian society. The Indian Constitution does make provisions for the socially and educationally weaker sections of the society. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are two clearly identified marginalised caste groups. We also have De-notified and Nomadic Tribes (DNT) and religious minorities who lack in development and do not enjoy same level of access to the government’s schemes and programmes. Then there are gender divisions in a highly patriarchal society. How do the economic policy and government budgets treat the people at the margin?
There are separate ministries catering to the development needs of tribals and minorities. Ministry of Social Justice works for the empowerment of dalits and DNT populations among others. Women and Child Development Ministry is mandated to empower women.
One way of looking at the Budget from the perspective of the marginalised sections is to look at the budget allocated to these ministries. But there is also a need look at the budget across the ministries from the perspective of marginalised people. Earlier there used to be sub-plan for SCs and STs as part of the Five Year Plan and Annual Plans. This has now gone with the discontinuing of the planning process.
Now, the Union Budget provides various statements listing the schemes and programmes across the ministries for the welfare of SCs and STs. There is also a Gender Budget Statement (statement 13) provided with the Budget showing the amount being spent on women empowerment and women development by the various ministries.
Also see: Budget 2021: A Hoax on Common People?
There is no such statement for the minorities, even though the Prime Minister’s 15 point Programme for the Minorities is meant to improve the participation of minority communities in 15 selected government programmes of various ministries/departments. DNT communities are not categorised as a group by the Constitution but recently the government has formed DNT Board for their development. We can now see what the Union Budget 2021-22 has offered to these marginalised groups.
Budget for Concerned Ministries
Before we analyse these statements, lets first look at the budgets for the individual ministries dealing with the marginalised of people. The table below shows the allocations made to the four ministries.
Table 1: Budget for Ministries Concerned with Marginalised Groups (in Rs crore)
[AE- Actual Expenditure, BE- Budget Estimate, RE- Revised Estimate]
Overall these ministries get lower allocations and, as we can see from the tables above, there is hardly any substantial increase in the budget for these ministries. There is a clear decline in the budget for Ministries of Women and Child Development and Minority Affairs, and the budgets for Departments of Social Justice and Empowerment (both part of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment) has seen a little increase. Budget for ministry of tribal affairs also increased marginally.
Welfare of SCs and STs
This is telling that now when the development discourse has matured from welfare to development to empowerment, the Union government decided to call the statements on schemes and programmes for the SCs and STs as the “Allocations for Welfare of SCs” and “Allocations for Welfare of STs” after the plan and sub-plan process ceased to continue.
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The statements showing allocations by various ministries for the SCs and STs show that there is hardly any improvement in the allocations made by the ministries. The chart below shows the allocations for SCs and STs in the Union Budget.
Chart 2: Allocations towards ‘welfare’ of SCs and STs (in Rs. crore)
Source: Union Budget, 2020-21 and 2021-22
As the chart above shows, there is marginal increase in the allocations made for the two communities till the last two years (2019-20 BE and 2020-21 BE). Also, the actual expenditure (AE) in 2019-20, which was not affected by any calamity like COVID-19, falls short of allocations made. The underutilisation is about 20% in case of SCs and 11% in case of the scheme for STs.
This year the allocations show an increase for the schemes for both categories. The allocations increased from Rs. 83.25 thousand crore to Rs. 1.26 lakh crore for schemes for SCs and from Rs. 53.65 thousand crore to Rs. 79.94 thousand crore for schemes for STs. This increase in allocations is not because there is substantial increase for the schemes for SCs and STs for any particular ministry but because some new ministries started reporting their allocations for SCs and STs this year.
For example, Ministry of Fertiliser has reported an allocation of Rs. 6.9 thousand crore and Ministry of Food and Civil Supplies has reported allocation of Rs 20.9 thousand crore towards the welfare of SCs. But the allocations by the individual ministries towards the welfare of SCs have not increased compared to previous years. For example, the allocation by the Ministry of Agriculture declined in 2021-22 compared to 2020-21 from Rs. 22.21 thousand crore to Rs. 20.32 thousand crore.
Also read: Union Budget 2021-22 Shows a Drop in Expenditure on Agricultural Schemes
Similarly, allocation by the Department of School Education under Ministry of Education declined from Rs. 12.27 thousand crore to Rs. 9.42 thousand crore, whereas the allocation by the Higher Education Department increased marginally by about Rs. 600 crore.
Budget for DNT communities
As mentioned above, there is Development and Welfare Board for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Communities under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Establishment Budget for this board has been increased this year from Rs. 1.24 crore in 2020-21 to Rs. 5 crore. There is also a Scheme for Development of Denotified Nomadic Tribes, which was allocated Rs. 10 crore in the current year but the detailed budget of the ministry does not show budget for this scheme for the year 2021-22.
Gender Budget Allocations
The GB allocation by the Union government provides data on allocations going towards women empowerment/development by various ministries. The statement is provided in two parts. Part A lists the schemes and programmes which have 100% budget going towards women and girls. Part B lists the schemes and programmes having 30% to 99% share going towards women and girls. For the last many years, the gender budget has hovered around the 5% point of the total budget and within that more than 80% of allocations are part of Part B. What is also important here is that the gender budget ratio has been hovering around 5% point since the year it started and there does not seem to be any conscious efforts to increase it.
Chart 3: Share of Gender budget in the Total Budget
Source: Union budget various years
The share of gender budget in the total Budget is just 4.45, 0.3% less than the previous Budget. It was slightly more than 5% in the year 2017-18. Budget for Women and Child Development Ministry has also declined by more than Rs. 5,000 crore, so have the budgets for the schemes of the ministry like Pradhan Mantri Matri Vandana Yojana and Integrated Child Development Services scheme. The share of GB shows a sharp increase in the current year’s revised estimates which is a result of increased allocations towards schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA) due to the COVID-19 lockdown. The GB in MGNREGA increased from Rs. 20,500 crore to Rs. 37,166.67 crore.
Allocations for the Ministry of Minority Affairs
As mentioned above, the allocations for the Ministry of Minority Affairs have declined from Rs 5,000 crore to Rs 4,800 crore. There is decline in budget for both educations schemes as well as the skill development schemes for minorities. Its importance from the perspective of minorities is monitoring of the PM 15 points programme for minorities. But the Budget does not provide insight in that.
To conclude, the analysis of the Union Budget 2021-22 from the perspective of marginalised groups shows that there is not much which this Budget offers to the millions of marginalied of the country. There is not much change in the ways the allocations are made and reported in various statements for the marginalised groups. There is not any significant increase in the Budget for any of these groups, neither is there any big announcement for them in the Budget speech.
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(The writer is founder director of the Budget Analysis and Research Centre Trust. The views are personal.)