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Dalits in India are ignored in budgets

Sep 03, 2008

Network for Social Accountability has prepared a policy brief on recent budgetary provisions in India for the Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan. The paper: Of Dalits and their Money analyses several anomalies from reduced allocation to improper utilisation of funds meant for one of the most impoverished communities of the country.

Of Dalits and their Money: An Analysis of the Budgetary Allocations for the Scheduled Castes Sub-Pan (SCSP) in Recent Years

Publisher: Network for Social Accountability (NSA), August 2008

An analysis of the Union Budget 2008-09 does not show any notable improvement in the attitude of our policymakers towards the development of dalits or Scheduled Castes in the country.

Every year before the budget is passed by Parliament, specific ministries prepare a Demand for Grants. On the basis of such demand made by the ministries, money is allocated.

For the Budget 2008-09 a detailed Demand for Grants was prepared by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE), which was curtailed when the actual budget was prepared.

As against a modest plan allocation of Rs 2,726 crore proposed by the MSJE, the Planning Commission finally approved Rs 2,400 crore for the current financial year. The reasons cited for such a cut in plan allocations by around 12% were unavailability of the Gross Budgetary Support (GBS) and inter-sectoral priorities that motivated our policymakers to reduce the proposed budget.

Effects on various schemes

According to the ministry the reduction in allocation will affect outcomes in major schemes like Special Central Assistance to Scheduled Castes Component Plan, Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Scavengers, Pre and Post Matric Scholarship for OBC students, Scheme for Prevention of Alcoholism and Substance (Drugs) Abuse, etc.

Deeply concerned over such reduction in allocations for plan activities, a Parliamentary Committee states that “considering the ministry’s record of optimum utilisation of allocated funds which is 98.95% of the outlay during 2007-08 and to enable them to effectively fulfill their mandate of empowering the vulnerable sections of our society, the Committee hoped that government would consider provision of additional funds to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment at RE stage.”

Funds and their utilisation

The funding pattern and utilisation of resources allocated for the purpose also cause concern. Under the present funding pattern, central assistance is provided to the state governments on a 50:50 basis and 100% to Union Territory Administrations over and above their committed liability, whereas in a Central Sector Scheme 100% funding is borne by the central government.

The states, under the existing pattern of funding, often find it difficult to come up with their share of committed liability. As per a Parliamentary Standing Committee that studied the Demand for Grants 2008-09, it is necessary that the funding pattern be changed by converting them into Central Sector Schemes.

As far as utilisation of funds allocated in the previous years is concerned, it is a matter of concern that 12,814 Utilisation Certificates for various welfare schemes amounting to Rs 735 crore are still outstanding from States/UTs/Voluntary organisations.

Existing norms

As per existing norms, if utilisation certificates in respect of funds allocated are not submitted in time, the ministry cannot release new funds. This affects timely implementation of various schemes.

It can be observed that during 2007-08 several States with sizable SC population have not allocated funds for their SCSP as per the percentage of their SC population.

However, it will be wrong to put the blame entirely on the state governments. As mentioned earlier, such schemes and strategies, which are targeted towards the development of particular sections of population, should not be practiced on centre-state sharing basis.

Given the precarious conditions of the state governments, especially those poorer states, which need the development of marginalised communities on an urgent basis, it is irrational to expect them to comply with the sharing norms.

Again, in the name of fiscal prudence the scope of government activities have been constrained through the Union imposed Fiscal Responsibility and Budet Management (FRBM) Act.

Crying over spilt milk

Since the introduction of SCSP in 1979-80, it is estimated that around Rs 325,000 crore entitled amount under the sub-plan was not allocated (as per a pamphlet circulated by a human rights groups).

Of course, we are crying over the spilt milk. Thanks to our policymakers and their systemic neglect, the opportunity is lost.

Non-confirmation to the constitutional mandate of SCSP by the union government is a critical issue and calls for immediate action.

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