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Union Budget 2015-16: Pre Budget Consultations

by admin last modified 2015-02-19 14:17

Dalits and Adivasi activists are of the firm belief that the popular slogan, ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas,’ given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi should have a direct bearing on the lives of the Dalits and Adivasis, and their key concerns across a range of sectors should be taken into account while shaping the country’s fiscal policy in the forthcoming Union Budget 2015-16.

Meanwhile, advocacy demanding proper implementation of the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) and the Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan (SCSP) has gathered steam in the last few weeks. With ongoing advocacy activities by many Dalit and Adivasi groups and CSOs, it is felt that it would be interesting to watch how the Union Finance Ministry is going to spell out its strategies for inclusive growth.

NCDHR General Secretary meets Union Finance Minister

In a pre-budget consultation with Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on 8 January 2015, representing NCDHR, Dalit activist Paul Divakar discussed the long-neglected draft Bills on the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) and the Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan (SCSP) and urged the Minister to take steps to ensure proper implementation of these sub plans, and bring back diverted funds and utilize it for the welfare of SC/ST communities.

During the discussions, the following points came up:

  1. Large Scale Diversions: The sub plans are plagued by gross diversions. Funds exclusively meant for the welfare of SCs and STs are used for other purposes/sectors. Several instances have come to light in states where SCSP and TSP funds have allegedly been diverted for other purposes such as expenditure on the Commonwealth Games 2010, construction of roads, bridges, stadiums, jails, police quarters, helipads, and other state-owned assets like flyovers etc.
  2. Accountability and Transparency: There is a lack of transparency and accountability to ensure effective implementation of the sub plans. Schemes under the SCSP and the TSP are not adequately publicized with clear guidelines for concerned communities/people to utilize it effectively. There is little accountability in its implementation.
  3. Insufficient Allocation for Economic Inclusion: There is insufficient allocation for the development of the SC/STs, as most schemes are aimed only at ensuring their bare survival. In the Union Budget for SCSP 2014-15, only Rs 8312 crore, which accounts for 20 per cent, is meant for development, while Rs. 28,261 crore, which is 68 per cent, is for schemes only meant for their bare survival. This kind of allocation only perpetuates inequalities rather than pave the way for bridging the development gap.
  4. Absence of Necessary Institutional Mechanisms: There is a lack of clear mechanisms and specific guidelines for formulation, allocation, monitoring and evaluation of budgetary allocations.
  5. Gender Perspective: The allocations lack gender perspective and the needs of SC/ST women and girl child are neglected and their development is further excluded. This further creates a disturbing gap between SC/ST men and women and the general women. Activists demand 50 percent of allocated funds for schemes meant for Dalit and Adivasi women.

Delegates meet Minister of State for Finance

With fiscal policy strategies for social inclusion such as the SCSP, the TSP, and Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) still lagging behind, a delegation led by NCDHR met Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha on 21 January, and urged him for the effective implementation of SCSP and TSP in the forthcoming Union Budget 2015-16. The delegation, comprising of Dalits and Adivasi groups and CSOs from Jharkhand, Delhi, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Punjab, UP and Bihar, reiterated the significance of effective implementation of SCSP TSP and stressed on taking into account gender equity while formulating schemes for Dalits and Adivasis.

The Minister promised to address the concerns of the delegation in the forth coming Budget. He requested the representatives to closely monitor the implementation of the SCSP and TSP and to bring anomalies to his notice. 

Some of the key suggestions are as follows:

  1. Set aside an outlay not less than the SC and ST population-equivalent percentage out of the total Central Plan and State Plans before distributing the total outlay Ministry-wise/ Department-wise/ Sector-wise
  2. Prevent gross misallocations and diversion of funds. Such measures would immediately result in the availability of approximately Rs 30,000 crores for the development of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes
  3. Special request to direct UGC (University Grants Commission) of the Ministry of Human Resource Development to design schemes and utilise allocated funds in the forthcoming Budget and to recover unspent/diverted funds for the welfare of SC/STs.

During discussions with the Minister, it was also pointed out that the UGC spent less than three per cent of its total allocation in the current year. This comes as a severe blow to the education of SCs and STs as it is critical for their welfare and development. 

Giving examples of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka where the state governments have enacted The AP SCSP and TSP (Planning, allocation and utilisation of financial resources) Act, 2012, and The Karnataka SCSP and TSP (Planning allocation and utilisation of financial resources) Act, 2013, the delegates urged the Minister to make similar legislations across the country.

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