Skip to main content

2023-24 budget allocation for social sector, tribals witnessed 'difficult-to-justify' cuts

By Bharat Dogra* 

While there is a provision for revising original allocations (called BE or budget estimate) in budget later in the year (when Revised Estimate or RE is prepared), normally a downward reduction is not expected in those cases where the BE was quite low to start with or where the scheme or the department/ministry is a high priority one.
However, the experience of the ongoing financial year 2023-24 is contrary to this expectation and in fact there have been quite a few arbitrary, difficult to justify cuts.
As the health sector is known to be much under-funded, a big cut here was not expected. However in reality we find that the BE for the Department of Health and Family Welfare of Rs 86175 crore was reduced to RE of Rs 77,624 crore, a cut of over Rs 8,000 crore.
In the case of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs the BE of Rs 76,431 crore was cut to RE of Rs 69,270 crore, a cut of over Rs 7,000 crore.
Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is clearly a high priority Ministry. However even its BE of Rs 10,222 crore was cut to RE of Rs 7,848 crore.
The Ministry of Planning has also suffered badly despite its obvious importance. Its already very low BE of Rs 824 crore was cut to RE of Rs 514 crore.
In the case of the Department of Science and Technology, the BE of Rs 7931 crore was cut to RE of just Rs 4891 crore.
In the case of the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation, the BE of Rs 5443 crore was cut to RE of Rs 3961 crore.
In addition there were big cuts in the Department of Justice and Social Empowerment and Ministry of Tribal Affairs. Coming now to some specific schemes, the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (housing for the poor) is a high priority and widely publicized scheme of the government. However even its BE of Rs 79,590 crore was cut very heavily to RE of Rs 54,103 crore, a cut of over Rs 25000 crore.
Another priority development scheme is of rural roads (Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana). Its BE of Rs 19,000 crore was cut to RE of Rs 17,000 crore.
The BE of Rs 16,000 crore for Urban Rejuvenation Mission was cut to RE of Rs 13,200 crore.
In the case of Swachh Bharat Mission Urban (urban sanitation program) the BE of Rs 5,000 crore was reduced to RE of Rs 2,550 crore.
In the case of Mission Shakti (for protection and empowerment of women) BE of Rs 3143 crore was reduced to RE of Rs 2,325 crore.
In the case of SANKALP (skill acquisition) BE of Rs 488 crore was reduced to exactly half RE -- Rs 244 crore.
Despite all the publicity given to the National Mission for Natural Farming, its BE of Rs 459 crore was cut very heavily to get RE of just Rs 100 crore.
Despite its obvious importance, the BE of the Border Area Development Program was cut from Rs 600 crore to RE of just Rs 251 crore.
In the case of such a high program like the National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project its BE of Rs 110 crore was cut very heavily to just Rs 2 crore.
In addition there were big cuts in several schemes for weaker sections including Eklavya residential schools and SEED, and even some core of the core programs and schemes.
Such arbitrary cuts in priority schemes and programs are a matter of great concern and steps should be taken immediately and with a sense of urgency to avoid such arbitrary cuts in future.

Tribal welfare: Low utilisation of funds

Tribal communities need and deserve a high priority for welfare schemes as there has been a past record of neglect and exploitation. The government has also repeatedly confirmed its commitment to welfare schemes for tribal communities. Unfortunately when we look at the recent record of utilization of already allocated funds, then this reveals that utilization has been shockingly low.
The original allocation for the Ministry of Tribal Affairs in the 2023-24 financial year budget was Rs 12,461 crore (one crore=10 million). This is called the Budget Estimate or BE. However later in the year Revised Estimate (RE) is prepared which generally should not be lower that the BE in the context of such a high priority ministry.
However, it is shocking to know that the RE for this ministry was reduced to as low as Rs 7,605 crore. In other words there was a reduction of as much as Rs 4,856 crore, or 38%. This has happened at a time when there are so many urgent unmet needs of tribal communities. One can imagine how much in terms of education, livelihood support etc. could have been achieved by a careful utilization of Rs 4,856 crore. Hence this is very unfortunate and a cause for very serious concern.
When we look at Central Sector Schemes/Projects of this ministry then the BE for this year (2023-24) was INR 6,618 crore. However RE for this was reduced to just Rs 3,072 crore. In other words in this context the cut has been more than 50%.
Coming now to centrally sponsored schemes the BE was Rs 4,295 crore while this was cut to RE of 3,285 crore later in the year.
In the case of the Umbrella Scheme for the Development of Scheduled Tribes (which is referred to as one of the core of the core schemes by the government, testifying to its importance), the reduction from BE to RE is the same as this is the main Centrally Sponsored Scheme in this context (from BE of Rs 4,295 crore to RE of Rs 3,285 crore).
What such big declines can mean in terms of the problems and distress suffered by existing and potential beneficiaries of various development and welfare schemes can be imagined. To give just one example, in the case of the central sector scheme of ‘Eklavya Model Residential Schools’ the BE of INR 5,943 crore was reduced to RE of just Rs 2,471 crore, a reduction of as much as Rs 3,472 crore. Only 42% was left, 58% was gone. A question arises regarding the impact on these schools, where already most students are studying in difficult conditions.
The above analysis has been in the context mainly of scheduled tribes and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. However some other tribal communities such as nomadic tribes, semi-nomadic tribes and denotified tribes are covered under the Department of Social justice and Empowerment. There is a scheme for economic empowerment for DNTs, NTs and SNTs which is briefly called SEED. For this INR 40 crore was allocated in 2023-24 which to start with was very low for a national level scheme. However this was further cut to just Rs 15 crore in 2023-24.
Clearly such arbitrary cuts in welfare schemes of tribal communities are very worrying, and learning from this, immediate steps should be taken to avoid cuts and improve utilization in the new financial year 2024-25.
---
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include “Planet in Peril”, “Protecting Earth for Children” and “A Day in 2071”

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

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. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

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".

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.

Narmada Valley's fossil evidence: Ground for 'nationalists' to argue primates' India roots?

By Saurav Sarkar*  In December 1982, a geologist digging in India’s Central Narmada Valley found something he did not expect. Arun Sonakia, who at the time worked for the Geological Survey of India, unearthed a hominid fossil skullcap from the Pleistocene era. The discovery sent shockwaves through the field of paleoanthropology and put South Asia on the map of human prehistory. Some experts concluded that the skull likely belonged to a member of a predecessor species of ours, Homo heidelbergensis , or perhaps was a hybrid of homo species, while Sonakia himself suggested “ an affinity… to Homo erectus .”