Skip to main content

Budget 2021-22 is 'uninspiring' for Dalits: Whither real empowerment measures?

By MK Shaji* 

The Government of Idia claims to work for all classes and peoples (Sabka Saath). Its leadership firmly believes in the merits of a full-fledged capitalist economy and makes all out efforts to facilitate maximal profit for investors, industry and businesses.
Apparently for this reason, all the schemes and programmes being introduced by the present government for the development of all sections or classes of people (Sabka Vikas) basically employ capitalist market economy instruments, such as provision of bank loans and credits and various insurance schemes.
The Finance Minister in her Budget speech has talked about larger credit for farmers even while continuing the adamancy with regard to the controversial farm laws which favour corporatization of agriculture against which the farmers are agitating for long. The Government has introduced Fasal Bheema Yojana and a number of other insurance programmes.
The introduction of these capitalist market instruments are being accompanied by withdrawal of various kinds of subsidies and other social sector service programmes. Subsidies for the disadvantaged social classes and groups are being limited to interest subsidies on loans.
This helps capitalist investors in different sectors (rural agriculture, housing etc.) by creating demand for loan money from the unaffordable classes of people, a large number of whom will end up in indebtedness. In essence the new capitalist avatar of the old traditional money-lending (bania) economy is being erected. Government is also withdrawing from social security services meant for the socially disadvantaged and the poor.
About 27.5 percent of India’s population still lives below poverty line. Highest proportion of the poor is found among the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) communities. The Central government has been making budgetary outlays for various social security and economic development schemes for these communities.
In this year’s budget, there is a clear signal of the Government’s resolve to reduce and ultimately withdraw social security schemes for SCs and STs. This is openly stated while introducing in the Budget a new scheme for SCs, namely, Pradhan Mantri Anusuchit Jaati Abhyuday Yojana (PM AJAY) which purportedly is said to “drastically reduce poverty rates of the SC communities” by implementing projects related to income generation by maximizing the employment potential through skill development, “thereby reducing dependency of the target population on the various social assistance programmes.”
While the logic and stated purpose is clear and agreeable, there is ample reason for the SC communities to doubt the sincerity of purpose of such schemes and prospect for their effective implementation.
Suspicion arises from the fact that the government has given short shrift to similar economic development schemes for SCs which it introduced earlier. 
An example is the scheme of Venture Capital Fund for SCs introduced in 2014-15 with a budgetary outlay of Rs 200 crore to promote entrepreneurship among SCs. The government has not been able to utilize this fund and there was nil utilization of this fund in 2017-18.
Apparently, SC people are not able to benefit from this fund because of the conditionality that 25 to 50% of the project cost has to be borne by them which they cannot afford. Rs 125 crore allocated for it in the Budget of 2020-21 has been reduced to Rs 50 crore in the Revised Budget 2020-21 and this year’s budget provides only Rs 100 crore.
Similarly, the Government has drastically reduced the outlay for the three finance development corporations created to help the economic advancement of SCs, Safai Karmachari communities and OBCs from the last year’s Rs 420 crore to only Rs 250 crore this year.
The outlay for self-employment scheme for the Rehabilitation Manual Scavengers was Rs 125 crore in Budget Estimates 2020-21 has been reduced to Rs 50 crore in the Revised Estimates, and allocation for this year is only Rs 100 crore.
In the context of the frequent reports of deaths of manual scavengers from exposure to poisonous gases in sewers, the Government needs to be more sincere in their rehabilitation and introduction of mechanization of cleaning of sewers and drains. Can we really create an Atmanirbharat Bharat without liberating this section of people from such inhuman conditions?
Most Dalits are economically very weak to enter into entrepreneurial activities requiring much capital investment. Educational level among them is only gradually improving. This improvement has been facilitated mainly by provision of various scholarships. Worryingly, the present government is on a course of withdrawing the provision of scholarships for SCs and STs.
Can we really create an Atmanirbharat Bharat without liberating manual scavengers  exposed to poisonous gases in sewers?
The Post-Matric Scholarship for SCs, introduced by Dr Ambedkar from pre-Independence time has been helping the educational advancement of a section of SCs. But in the last few years the Government has been unwilling to meet the increasing demand for this scholarship from SC students and therefore large numbers of them had to drop out mid way through their studies.
The outlay provided in this year’s budget for this scholarship (Rs 3,415.62 crore) is less than in the last year (Rs 3,815.87 crore) and is grossly inadequate to meet the educational aspirations of large numbers of SC students.
This scholarship, along with reservation for SCs, is a commitment made to Dr Ambedkar by the then national leadership in the Pune Pact 1930, which helped Gandhiji to end his fast in Yeravda Jail, in lieu of Dr Ambedkar’s agreement to withdraw his demand for separate electorates for SCs. Therefore, the responsibility for this scholarship is with the national (Central) government, but presently State Governments are made to incur part of the funds for this scholarship.
There are some smaller Central scholarships for SCs and OBCs like National Fellowship for SCs and OBCs, Top Class education for SCs, Free Coaching for SC and OBC students, National Overseas Scholarship for SCs and OBCs. The outlay of Rs 545 crore for these “Central Scholarships” provided in last year’s Budget has been reduced to Rs 315 crore in the Revised Estimates.
This shows insincerity of intention of the original outlay. This insincerity towards the weak and disadvantaged sections is also seen from the fact that for the two programmes of Rehabilitation of Beggars and of Transgender Persons Rs 110 crore allocated in the last year’s Budget has not been spent as seen from “Nil” amounts shown in the Revised Budget Estimates.
Besides, this year’s Budget has entirely dropped the schemes like SC Boys and Girls Hostels for which Rs 30 crores was allocated last year, and “Pre-Matric Scholarship for Children of those Engaged in Unclean Occupations and Prone to Heath Hazards” for which Rs 25 crore was allocated last year.
The diversion of all governmental functions towards capitalistic interests is clearly seen from the conversion of the scheme of “National Overseas Scholarship Scheme for OBCs” into “Interest Subsidy on Overseas Studies of OBCs”.
In similar fashion, the general and consistent hostility and anathema towards NGOs shown by the present government can also be seen in respect of NGOs working for SCs. There is no outlay provided in this year’s Budget for the earlier four schemes of assistance to voluntary organizations working for SCs, OBCs, the aged, and for social defence services.
For Dalits, who are still mostly agricultural labourers and others who are engaged in the hardest and undignified labour works, the dawn is still dark. For them, the Budget 2021-22 is an uninspiring fare. Government needs to introduce real empowerment measures like distribution of cultivable lands to landless rural SC families and other special measures as envisaged in the original concept of Special Component Plan for Scheduled Castes (SCP) to instill faith in them.
Otherwise the quoting of the beautiful verse of Rabindranath Tagore by the Finance Minister in her Budget speech — “Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark” – would appear a pretentious farce.
---
*Social justice activist working with NGOs

Comments

TRENDING

What's behind public sector banks showing huge profits in 2nd quarter of 2022-23?

By Thomas Franco*  The quarter two results of the public sector banks (PSBs) appear to be noteworthy compared to a few years ago. All these banks showed good profits in the financial year 2021-22. Twelve PSBs made a net profit of Rs 25,685 crore in quarter 2 of FY23 and a total of Rs 40,991 crore in the first half of 2023. The combined profit of 12 banks in March 2022 was Rs 66,539 crore which was 110% more than 2021 – Rs. 31,816 crore. The Asset Quality Review of 2015 saw a surge in NPAs of PSBs jumping to Rs 8.96 lakh crore in March 2018 from Rs 2.17 lakh crore in March 2014. This was simply because the norms for NPAs were changed from 180 days to 90 days, and all restructuring of even genuine accounts was done away with. In 2018 NPA of SBI was 5.73% which has come down to 0.8% in Q2 of FY23. The NPA of Canara Bank has come down to 2.19% from 7.48% in Mar 2018. The same trend is seen in all public banks. Now SBI has seen a jump of 74% in its net profit, while Canara Bank’s profit is

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Business back to normal? IIM-A survey says, sales expectations have sharply improved

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management’s Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES), which polls a panel of business leaders to find out their perception of slack in economy, including their inflation expectations, year-ahead cost expectations and the factors influencing price changes, such as profit and sales levels, etc., has said that the cost perceptions data indicates signs of moderation in price pressures. Carried out for September, the survey says, the cost pressure of the reporting firms has shifted from “very significant increase (over 6%) to moderate increase (3.1% to 6%).” It adds, “The percentage of firms perceiving over 10% cost increase y-o-y has declined. Over 21% of the firms in September 2022 round of the survey perceive that costs have increased very significantly (over 10%) – down from 26% recorded in August 2022.” Claiming to be a unique survey, in that it goes straight to businesses -- the price setters -- rather than to consumers or household

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Hindutva groups threat to peace, freedom: US diaspora groups tell FBI, other govt depts

By Our Representative  The Islamophobic and neo-Nazi ideology of Hindutva is a clear and present danger to peace and freedoms in the United States, a coalition of civil rights organizations told key officials of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, the US Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at a recent event in Edison, New Jersey. At the event titled United Against Hate, activists from American Muslims for Democracy (AMD), Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) and Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) made detailed presentations on this ideology of Hindu supremacism that is committing mass persecution of India’s Muslims and Christians and is rearing its ugly head in New Jersey as well as across the US. Attending the event were David S Leonardis, Special Investigator from the New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety; Michael E Campion, Chief of the Civil Rights Division for the US Attorney General's Office; and Jonathan R Norbut of the U.S. Dep

GoI's productivity linked incentives to corporates 'without independent analysis'

Counterview Desk  Wondering how prudent is the Government of India's (GoI's) Productivity Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme, EAS Sarma, former secretary, GoI, in a representation to Nirmala Sitharaman, Union finance minister, has said it appears to be nothing more than subsidy to the private sector without any responsibility. Giving a specific example against the backdrop of announcement of 50% subsidy covering the project cost of the Vedanta Group's decision to set up a semiconductor fabrication plant in Gujarat, in collaboration with Foxconn, Sarma says, "The total cost of this project is reported to be Rs 1,54,000 crore. 50% of this works out to Rs 77,000 crore." Stating that this creates the impression that the entire subsidy allocation for the semiconductor manufacturing sector would be appropriated by this company, Sarma says, "The Gujarat government did not lag behind in liberally announcing similar incentives for the Vedanta-Foxconn project. It offered 7

As polls approach, electorate 'failing to realise': Gujarat model is in a shambles

By DN Rath*  Gujarat assembly elections, scheduled to be held on 1 and 5 December 2022, is viewed by many as dress rehearsal for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. When the suffering people have been pointing towards redressal of some local issues like absence of cleanliness, sewage problem, shortage of water supply, troubles created by stray cattle, insufficiency of streetlights, etc., it is evident that they are not fully aware that assembly elections are being fought on ideological standpoints and policy decisions. Nor is there the realisation that the state is in a shambles and the much-trumpeted ‘Gujarat model’ of development has proved to be a hoax. Like other states, the people of Gujarat are also back-broken by steep rise in prices to the tune of 400% in last 20 years. It is not that the government cannot control the spurt in prices if it so wants. Apart from the fact that price rise is an inevitability in a capitalist economy, artificial shortage triggered by massive hoarding, b

BJP poll gimmick? Bilkis Bano rape case 'pardon' vs Rajiv assassins' release

By Sandeep Pandey*  Supreme Court has released six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. This was bound to happen as earlier AG Perarivalan was released in the same case, setting a precedent. Even though four of them are Sri Lankans but a popular Tamil sentiment favoured the release of these convicts which is why Tamil political parties supported this and resolutions were passed by different governments in Tamil Nadu to his effect.  Rajiv Gandhi paid the price of sending Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka where it got entangled with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and eventually the whole operation ended up is a fiasco.  However, most importantly Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi and probably Rahul too do not have any objections to the release of these convicts. In fact, Sonia Gandhi played an important role in getting the death sentence of the only lady among the convicts Nalini commuted to life term through the Tamil Nadu Governor. Priyanka visited Nalini in Vellore Jail and

Amit Shah accused of inciting communal passion: Demand to postpone Gujarat polls

Counterview Desk  In an email representation to the Election Commission of India (ECI), Dr EAS Sarma, former secretary to the Government of India, has objected to the statement reported to have been made by Union home minister Amit Shah, who allegedly justified the 2002 Gujarat riots stating that certain sections of people “taught a lesson” to the rioters. Noting that the statement, if correct, “in effect implies those other than the law enforcement authorities had taken law into their hands”, Sarma says, “Shah's statement needs to be viewed by the ECI in conjunction with the reported fact that it was the Union Home Ministry that cleared the release of the eleven rape convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, directly related to the infamous Godhra incidents in 2002, which triggered the shameful sequence of events that shook the nation's conscience.” According to Sarma, if the statement is true, “I am constrained to draw the inevitable inference that it would have already impacted th