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Union budget: Rs 81,341 crore 'shortfall' in allocation for Dalits, Rs 52,884 for Adivasis

By PS Krishnan (IAS, retd)*
Well before the full-year Budget 2019-20, I wrote to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, giving her a list of schemes/programmes required for the scheduled castes (SCs) and (STs), and also socially and educationally backward classes (SEdBCs), for which adequate outlays need to be provided in order to fulfill the Constitutional mandate as well as to translate the weighty pronouncements of the Prime Minister relating to SCs, STs and SEdBCs in his various speeches.
In order to provide her the details of and justification for each scheme/programme in the list, I annexed to my letter to the Finance Minister a road-map of social justice measures "required to be undertaken (and sincerely and thoroughly implemented) in order to achieve the Constitutionally-mandated goal of social equality. i.e., equality of SCs, STs and SEdBCs with socially advanced castes (SACs), i.e., the non-SC, non-ST, non-SEdBCs castes, in all parameters of development, welfare and life”.
The budget contains a number of welcome features. The Finance Minister’s speech describes the road-map contained in the Budget in order to achieve this target, such as
  • building physical and social infrastructure;
  • emphasis on MSMEs, start-ups, defence manufacturing etc; 
  • self-sufficiency and export of food grains, pulses, oilseeds, fruits and vegetables; and 
  • the promotion of Digital India to cover every sector of the economy, etc. 
Among the measures of relevance and benefit to SCs, STs and SEdBCs are houses for all, tap water in every home, etc., in addition to schemes taken up in the previous five years such a Ujjwala, Saubhagya, Ayushman Bharat/PMJAY, rural roads, etc. These are welcome and their complete implementation will benefit the SCs, STs and SEdBCs, provided they are efficiently monitored to ensure that the SCs, STs and the most and extremely backward castes of SEdBCs are not left out, as often happens on account of inherited biases and indifferences, which infect many persons in the implementing machinery also.
But this will, if implemented and monitored, help only to ensure that the existing gaps between the SCs, STs, and SEdBCs, on one side, and the SACs/NSCTBCs, on the other, do not get further widened, but they will not be able to reduce and close the gaps between them in accordance with the Constitutional goal of social equality and social justice.

Failure to provide outlays

Thus, the Budget of 2019-20, like the Budgets of previous years, of the present and past Governments, has failed to provide outlays for schemes and programmes which are indispensable to enable the SCs, STs and SEdBCs to reach the level of equality and thereby permanently solve the problems created by the caste-system-with-“untouchability” over the centuries and allowed to be continued in the decades after Independence till now, and lay the foundation for the integration of society on the basis of equality, equal dignity and fraternity, unification of the nation and optimal progress of the country’s economy.
It is the failure in this regard that is at the root of the inability of post-Independence India to progress at optimal pace, to a level not less than that of China, which started at approximately the same level as us about seventy years back.
Land and irrigation facilities: The most serious qualitative lacuna in this budget, as in the past budgets, is the failure to provide any budgetary outlay for the universal distribution of a viable extent of agricultural land to all rural SC families, and also to all rural ST and non-SC, non-ST agricultural labour families, along with group minor irrigation for their lands.
This will benefit the masses of SCs, who have historically been denied the right to own land and, therefore, even after post-Independence ameliorative measures, they continue to be mostly landless agricultural labourers and other labourers. This has close links with the continued imposition of “untouchability”-based discriminations on them all over the country, and atrocities committed against them when they try to assert their Constitutional rights.
By providing agricultural land, along with group minor irrigation, for every rural SC family, and along with to every rural ST landless agricultural labour family and every rural non-SC, non-ST landless agricultural labour family, the following important outcomes will emerge:
  • Underemployment among SCs, and among others mentioned above, will disappear
  • They will be able to increase productivity, as the land will belong to them, and raise multiple crops throughout the year 
  • This will enhance their purchasing power 
  • With this purchasing power, they will be able to afford a number of goods and services which they need but which they cannot afford now 
  • They will then enter the market for these goods and services 
  • This will enhance the demand for many goods and services and this will stimulate more and more economic activities for the provision of such goods and services 
  • Many of the production units currently operational are working below their installed capacities. Such units will be able to eliminate their production lags and produce to full capacity
  • Additional capacities in existing production units and also new production units will be created to meet the rising demand. 
Thus, the cascading effect of this single initiative will create tremendous new employment potentials, in addition to the removal of underemployment of the SC and other landless agricultural labourers and the enhancement of their status and dignity. It flabbergasts me why the present Finance Minister, her predecessors, and other leaders of the present and past governments have not jumped at this opportunity to grab it and implement it with alacrity, providing adequate outlays and organizational and monitoring structures.
Education policy: The draft New Education Policy (DNEP) rightly emphasizes the importance of pre-school education, but it does not spell out the special measures required to make pre-school education of quality available to the SCs, STs and the most and extremely backward castes of SEdBCs, keeping in view the severe blockages of “untouchability” and caste-system, nor does the present Budget provide any outlay for this.
It is appropriate that the FM provides a specific outlay for establishment of anganwadis in the habitations of SCs and STs where Anganwadis do not exist and for providing qualified pre-school education teachers in each such Anganwadi and for training more pre-school education teachers.
Similarly, the DNEP recognizes the educational inequality suffered by the SCs, STs and SEdBCs. There are eloquent indices of this, which have not been utilized by the DNEP. The DNEP also recognizes the increasing dropouts among SCs, STs and SEdBCs, as one goes up the educational ladder, but without prescribing specific measures to deal with this, keeping in view the severe obstacles placed in their way by the caste system and “untouchability”.
The present budget also does not make provision for certain schemes which I have suggested for this purpose in my letter to the Finance Minister such as an “open-ended” pre-matric scholarship scheme for SC and ST students from Class I onwards; high-quality residential schools for SC girls and SC boys, ST girls and ST boys, and also for SEdBC girls and SEdBC boys; and provision of adequate funds for the Post-Matric Scholarship (PMS) scheme for SC and ST students, so as to eliminate the still remaining balance of accumulated arrears, placed at Rs 3000 crore, as of June 2019, by the Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment in the Parliament, and for full and timely release of the PMS.
The outlay made for the PMS in the Budget 2019-20 is inadequate. The avoidable recent history of arrears will continue and dropouts will increase. This will result in the dropouts entering the over-crowded unskilled labour market. The removal of this by providing adequate outlay for PMS in the budget will help the progress towards a 5 Trillion dollar economy. It would be appropriate if the Finance Minister provides in the Budget 2019-20.
These are examples of absence of outlays and inadequate outlays in the Budget, despite my detailed advice and information. This is self-defeating for the goal of Constitutionally-mandated social equality.

Quantitative deficiencies 

Out of the total Budgetary Expenditure of Rs 27,86,349.45 crore, the outlay for SCs is only Rs 81,340.74 crore, which is a mere 2.92% of the total budgetary expenditure, and the outlay for STs is only Rs 52,884.22 or just 1.89%. The total developmental outlay (i.e., outlay for Central sector schemes + outlay for Centrally- sponsored schemes) in the Budget 2019-20 is Rs. 12,02,404.04. Out of this the outlay provided for SCs (Rs 81,340.74 crore) is only 6.76% instead of their due share of not less than 16.6%, and the outlay provided for STs (Rs 52,884.22) is only 4.40% instead of their due share of a minimum of 8.6%.
These proportions are higher than the proportions in BE 2017-18 and BE 2018-19, but only marginally so. The increase in the amounts and proportions is welcome, but satisfaction should be moderated by the fact that it is only 41% of the quantitative entitlement of SCs, and just above half of the quantitative entitlement of the STs, out of the total developmental outlays.
This is apart from the fact that a number of schemes of ministries other than the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (MSJE) and Tribal Affairs shown under “Allocations for Welfare of Scheduled Castes and “Allocations for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes” do not relate to the priority needs of SCs and STs and will not help significantly to eliminate the gaps between them and the SACs, and there is no effective monitoring system which assures that the outlays do actually reach them in the field in full. 
In respect of certain schemes the “allocations” for SCs and STs seem to be earmarked in a mechanical manner giving only statistical satisfaction, and no real or substantive benefit to the SCs and STs.
The Finance Minister needs to increase the total outlay for welfare of SCs by an additional Rs. 1,18,258.33 crore and the total outlay for welfare of STs by an additional Rs 50522.53 crore, to be utilized for schemes of direct and exclusive benefit to the SCs and STs respectively, which will meet their priority needs and help eliminate the gaps between them and the SACs.
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*Former secretary to Government of India, Ministry of Welfare. These are excerpts from a detailed 14,000-word paper sent to Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Click HERE to read full paper

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