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'Numbers gamble': Why no one should be thrilled with 12%, 33% rise in SC, ST budget

By Sanjeev Kumar* 

The Union Budget 2023-24 is Rs 45,05,097 crore, an increase of 14% over the budget estimate of 2022-23, Rs 39,44,909 crore For Scheduled Castes, it is around a 12% increase; in the year 2023-24, it is Rs 1,59,126 crore compared to Rs 1,42,342 crore in the year 2022-23. For Scheduled Tribes, it is about 33%; in 2023-24, it is Rs 1,19,510 crore compared to Rs 89,265 crore in the year 2022-23.
The budget is not only a mathematical figure; no one should be thrilled about mathematics. It is qualitative programs that make a difference in the lives of the people. It can be said the government of the date is misusing its privilege to misguide Dalits and Adivasi through these mathematical figures. The facts produced by CAG and DASAM are evidence of it.
Mathematically, it sounds like good advancement, especially for STs and then for SCs. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has examined some facts in its test audits. “Accounts of Union of India, Report No. 31 of 2022 (Financial Accounts)” clarifies the allocation and expenditure of the year 2020-21.
There are five schemes for SCs in the audit report, mostly direct benefit oriented. In these five schemes, the total fund allocated was Rs 5,801 crore, and expenditure was Rs 2,348 crore, meaning Rs 2,348 crore (40%) lapsed. %). Similarly, for ST, out of the total allocation of Rs 11,523.84 crore in nine programs, Only Rs 6,731.44 crore was spent, and the remaining Rs 4,792.4 crore lapsed.
Report No 20 of the year 2021 (Performance Audit), Ministry of Education, Union of India has another discrimination figure in higher education in the IITs. Funds are being allocated for IITs which are funded from SC/ST welfare funds at a large scale. 
In the year 2023-24, allocation from the SC welfare fund is Rs 565 crore, and from the ST fund, it is Rs 274 crore. Total Rs 849 crore from SC/ST welfare fund. But the shortfall in enrollment is 56% for SC and 87% for ST in Ph.D. Programs during 2014-19. The shortfall in PG programs is 15% for SCs and 41% for STs.

Manual Scavengers position in the Union Budget 2023-24

Detailed Demands for Grants (DDG): This document has not been available on the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment portal since 2020-21. Figures given in available DDG from the year 2016-17 to 2019-20 are as follows:
Other Schemes: In the papers on the parliament floor, it is stated that there are several schemes for manual scavengers incorporated in the budgeted programs. Some of the schemes are as follows:
  1. Recognition of prior learning (RPL): It is for training and upskilling for mechanized sewer cleaning.
  2. Workshop: They are likely to be conducted by the local urban body’s officers, engineers, sanitary inspectors, supervisors and contractors for safety measures and awareness of the Manual Scavengers Act
  3. Health camps by NSKFDC
  4. Swachchhata Udyami Yojana (SUY) is a loan for manual scavengers by NSKFDC.
Government expenditure on sewer cleaning through contractors: The budget allocated for cleaning sewers in Delhi is a classic example. 
The government pays money to contractors. Government and contractors employ cleaners in different nomenclatures like government daily wages, government temporary, private daily wages, private temporary, regular, permanent, etc., for the same work. 
These laborers from the community need help understanding the meanings and differences between different nomenclatures, as they are primarily concerned with food on their table and their daily needs. Looking into everything in mind, Honourable Gujarat High Court has asked government bodies not to privatize the permanent nature of municipality works. 
The interpretation and order of the High Court exist nowhere on the ground. An example of the government budget that almost goes to contractors is as follows in Delhi Government:

Ground reality of Manual ScavengersDASAM findings

  • DASAM surveyed 150 Manual Scavengers in Delhi. In the records of the Delhi government, they are pronounced as Safai Karmachari in the categories like permanent, temporary, regular, daily wage laborer, contractual labor, private labor, etc. From the viewpoint of the work at a place, the meaning of these terminologies is unclear to any safai karamchari. Even DASAM is puzzled as to understand the purposes behind usage of these different terminologies; new breed of labor categories.
  • No manual scavenger stated about any workshop or health facilities mentioned in the paper laid on the floor of Parliament. Workshop on Manual Scavengers Act means participants should know about their wages, safety training, grievance redressal mechanism, access facilities, live a dignified life, protect themselves from deprivation, etc. Survey reveals that no manual scavenger has received their minimum wage, and they don’t know what to do to get a full wage. No manual scavengers informed that they have received any training or workshop to solve the problems they face at the workplace.
  • No manual scavenger could get entrepreneurial training (for their work) from government officials, as stated in the paper laid in the Parliament.
  • Delhi Government published a tender stating that family members of deceased manual scavengers will be given preference in awarding the mechanized cleaning tasks. But no Vendor Development Program was organized by the government. It is to be noted that as per government policy notification 2012 government has to conduct vendor development programmes for targeted groups.
  • Manual scavengers contacted 9 MLAs in Delhi elected from reserved constituencies and expressed their concerns before them. Nothing could be resolved yet.
  • No manual scavengers were found to be the beneficiary of the decision given by the Honorable Gujarat High Court, i.e., the government should not privatize the regular nature of work.
Media report: The “Outlook” coverage states the same thing that DASAM has witnessed. The problems of manual scavengers are the same, but “Insanitary Latrine” is no sewerage cleaning without safety kits. They do it for their survival. They can’t get a job in another occupation; perhaps their education syllabus is romanticized for its futility to make them capable of living with dignity at the workplace. It is not the only story; it multiplies in millions throughout India. The government’s expenditure on them is arbitrary; it controls the mechanical arrangements of “DIGITAL INDIA” that belong to digitized people.
Manual scavengers have neither education nor the money to get digitized. It is not sure that a person living real life will be willing to get digitized in Digital India. For example, the stories of DASAM’s findings and media belong to Digital India in 2022 and the recent presiding years. Digitization speaks for the justice, welfare and development of people living in the lowest social hierarchy rank. Still, these people either can’t get space or, at most, can get rare spaces. Perhaps, because their pain is not suitable for the romantic world in Digital India.
CAG Observation: These observations differ from State to State. Excerpts are taken for two States, namely Delhi and Arunachal Pradesh, to understand the manner and spirit in which these programmes are being implemented.
Delhi Government: Only financial aspects could be found that reveal the savings (unutilized). In two heads total of Rs 4.30 crore was allocated, and expenditure was zero. The clarification was pending from the central ministry. 
Excerpts from Report No. 2 of the year 2018, Delhi Government, Page 54:
“National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation (NSKFDC) allocated rupees 166.80 crore during 2012-17. The Company, however, could draw Rupees nine crore only (5.39 percent) in March 2016 from NSKFDC for implementing various schemes for this target group (having annual income of up to Rs 1.20 lakh) which remained unutilized. The audit also did not see any action plan for the disbursement of unutilized funds to Safai Karamcharis, which were kept invested with the Bank.
“The Company stated that funds could not be utilized as Apex Corporation did not inform specific eligibility guidelines. The reply is not tenable as the Company failed to obtain or resolve the issue with the Apex Corporation in this respect for five years.”

Arunachal Pradesh: Excerpts from Report No. 2 of 2022, Arunachal Pradesh, Page 24:
“Section 19 (a) of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (MS Act 2013) envisages that no person is engaged or employed as a manual scavenger within their jurisdiction. The septic tank technology was adopted for the IHHL (Individual Hose Hold Latrine) construction in SBM(U). The Department did not conduct a feasibility study or survey before the introduction of septic tank technology. The high water demand for septic tank technology is one of the disadvantages in hilly states like Arunachal Pradesh. In the absence of infrastructure for emptying and transporting septage from septic tanks in households of urban areas, the IHH in urban areas resorts to the engagement of manual scavengers in violation of the MS Act 2013. During physical verification of 200 IHHs in sampled urban centers, 126 IHHs (63 percent) admitted the facts of engagement of manual scavengers.
“While accepting the facts, the Department stated (October 2021) that it had been facing acute shortage of resources and absence of separate fund allocation for the feasibility study. Without a feasibility study, the Department resorted to utilizing the technology per the local conditions using local resources. The Department also stated that they are aware of the problem and exploring and introducing the techniques, i.e., building septic management plants with the available funds and resources. Further, desludging vehicles were procured for the capital region to utilize the engagement of the manual scavengers.”

Conclusion

The budget is not only a mathematical figure; no one should be thrilled about mathematics. It is qualitative programs that make a difference in the lives of the people. It can be said the government of the date is misusing its privilege to misguide Dalits and Adivasis in mathematical figures. The facts produced by CAG and DASM are evidence of it.
---
*Secretary, Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch (DASAM); convener National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)

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