Skip to main content

Welfare? Govt of India spends just 19% of manual scavengers' rehabilitation budget

By Bharat Dogra* 

While the Dalit community has been always known for higher levels of poverty as well as social discrimination, even within the Dalits there is a sub-section known for even worse levels of poverty as well as social discrimination. This is the section which was traditionally involved in manual scavenging.
The shocking injustice they have suffered from over the years has been widely recognized leading to a ban on manual scavenging. At the same time there is urgent need for the rehabilitation of those engaged in manual scavenging. Hence a self-employment scheme for the rehabilitation of those engaged in manual scavenging was drawn up. The allocations and the expenditure for this scheme for the last eight years are shown in the Table below:
Union Budget for Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of 
Manual Scavengers (in Rs crore)
By Budget Estimate we mean the original allocation made when the budget is presented. It is clear from this table that the actual expenditure since Narendra Modi came to power (Rs 236 crore) has been only about 19% of the allocations announced in the form of Budget Estimate (Rs. 1255 crore). This is shocking considering that perhaps this is the scheme which is most closely related to the welfare of the poorest of the poor.
If we also look at the latest budget for the year 2022-23 then the Budget Estimate is just Rs 70 crore, which is just 15% of the peak year allocation -- the Budget Estimate for 2015-16 was Rs 461 crore.
In fact the budget allocations and actual spending for this extremely important scheme have been most arbitrary, unpredictable and uncertain. 
For such an important national scheme to be implemented properly, it should be reasonably assured of certain funding as a minimum. Only then you can plan properly and establish the infra-structure, the expertise and the woman power for the scheme.
After all, people have to be identified, approached and meetings have to be held with them regarding what sort of self-employment will work best for them. All this has to be done in the poorest and most neglected hamlets and often in very remote areas at the national level.
Here it may be mentioned that the work of identifying all deserving persons to be covered under this scheme is not an easy one as the most marginalized section of people are involved here and often the dominant persons may even try to deny their existence. Also while the old form of manual scavenging has been decreasing in a significant way, new forms have emerged and these have to be considered too.
As rehabilitation will not work in isolation, the wider community also has to be consulted and prepared for this. The support of community leaders has to be obtained. All this takes time, and there should be certainty that once the preparations are being made the necessary funds for the actual rehabilitation will be forthcoming. Trainings have to be arranged in various areas of self-employment.
Allocation has ranged from Rs 5 crore to Rs 461 crore annually, while actual expenditure has ranged from 0 to Rs 86 crore, not even once reaching 3 digits
Perhaps some new institution has to be created for this, or else existing institutions which will do this with the proper spirit have to be identified. Once so many people are being contacted and such high hopes of good rehabilitation are being raised then there has to be certainty that funds will be definitely available and there will be no let down. So there should be certainty of funds and an assurance that while there may be small changes but fund availability will not fall below a certain level.
As against such a need what do we see in reality? The huge and arbitrary changes from year to year do not make any sense at all, and it will certainly be very difficult to implement a well-planned scheme with continuity when fund availability is so arbitrary. Within a short period the allocation has ranged from Rs 5 crore to Rs 461 crore annually, while the actual expenditure has ranged from 0 to Rs 86 crore, not even once reaching 3 digits.
Here it may be pointed out that the latest national survey on manual scavengers was conducted in 2018, and after this there should have been a stepping up of this scheme but what we actually find in 2020-21 is that against the Budget Estimate of Rs 110 crore the actual expenditure goes down to the astonishingly low level of Rs 17 crore.
It is due to such terrible neglect that during the Covid days there were shocking reports of some persons earlier engaged in manual scavenging saying that they have not eaten for days as no alternative employment has been provided to them.
What is more, there was actually even greater need for stepping up the scheme as the estimates that became available in the 2018 census were widely believed to be big under-estimates. In fact the indicated level of this work as revealed in the socio-economic caste census 2011 for just the rural areas was about 4 times higher than what was indicated in the 2018 census, and for rural plus urban areas would have been higher.
Some years back while reporting on a small project of such rehabilitation in Jalaun district (UP) implemented by a voluntary organization Parmarth, I realized what a deeply heart-warming experience it can be for those engaged in manual scavenging to find new sources of employment with dignity.
So clearly this scheme of rehabilitation can be extremely enriching and creative, but to achieve success this must get much better support from the government, in terms of funds but also in terms of expertise and overall sincerity. 
Organizations and persons working with great sincerity and commitment should also be involved in this.
---
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now; his recent books include “A Day in 2071” and “Navjeevan”

Comments

TRENDING

Bill Gates as funder, author, editor, adviser? Data imperialism: manipulating the metrics

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD*  When Mahatma Gandhi on invitation from Buckingham Palace was invited to have tea with King George V, he was asked, “Mr Gandhi, do you think you are properly dressed to meet the King?” Gandhi retorted, “Do not worry about my clothes. The King has enough clothes on for both of us.”

Stagnating wages since 2014-15: Economists explain Modi legacy for informal workers

By Our Representative  Real wages have barely risen in India since 2014-15, despite rapid GDP growth. The country’s social security system has also stagnated in this period. The lives of informal workers remain extremely precarious, especially in states like Jharkhand where casual employment is the main source of livelihood for millions. These are some of the findings presented by economists Jean Drèze and Reetika Khera at a press conference convened by the Loktantra Bachao 2024 campaign. 

Displaced from Bangladesh, Buddhist, Hindu groups without citizenship in Arunachal

By Sharma Lohit  Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajongs were settled in the 1960s in parts of Changlang and Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh after they had fled Chittagong Hill Tracts of present Bangladesh following an ethnic clash and a dam disaster. Their original population was around 5,000, but at present, it is said to be close to one lakh.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Anti-Rupala Rajputs 'have no support' of numerically strong Kshatriya communities

By Rajiv Shah  Personally, I have no love lost for Purshottam Rupala, though I have known him ever since I was posted as the Times of India representative in Gandhinagar in 1997, from where I was supposed to do political reporting. In news after he made the statement that 'maharajas' succumbed to foreign rulers, including the British, and even married off their daughters them, there have been large Rajput rallies against him for “insulting” the community.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Joblessness, saffronisation, corporatisation of education: BJP 'squarely responsible'

Counterview Desk  In an open appeal to youth and students across India, several student and youth organizations from across India have said that the ruling party is squarely accountable for the issues concerning the students and the youth, including expensive education and extensive joblessness.

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

India's "welcome" proposal to impose sin tax on aerated drinks is part of to fight growing sugar consumption

By Amit Srivastava* A proposal to tax sugar sweetened beverages like tobacco in India has been welcomed by public health advocates. The proposal to increase sin taxes on aerated drinks is part of the recommendations made by India’s Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian on the upcoming Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill in the parliament of India.

Why it's only Modi ki guarantee, not BJP's, and how Varanasi has seen it up-close

"Development" along Ganga By Rosamma Thomas*  I was in Varanasi in this April, days before polling began for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. There are huge billboards advertising the Member of Parliament from Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The only image on all these large hoardings is of the PM, against a saffron background. It is as if the very person of Modi is what his party wishes to showcase.