CHENNAI: The Union Budget 2018-2019 has once again fallen short of the expectations of SC/ST communities, much like last year, said activists. According to the Scheduled Castes Sub Plan (SCSP), the proportional allocation of the total Union budget equivalent to the population of SCs is mandated, for the development of SC communities. The SCSP, aimed to bridge the gap between the SC/ST and general population, was done away with by the Centre since last year’s budget.
On Thursday, the Centre announced a mere Rs 56,619 crore, 2.32 per cent of the budget outlay for SC, as opposed to the Rs 4,05,407 crore (16.6 per cent) that should have been allocated, according to SCSP guidelines.
Similarly, Rs 39,135 crore, 1.6 per cent of the budget outlay was announced for ST, as opposed to Rs 2,10,030 crore ( 8.6 per cent) that must have been allocated under the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP), said Anirudh Rajan, a Delhi-based researcher.
Said VCK general secretary, D Ravikumar, “This comes at a time when Tamil Nadu is yet to receive a pending sum of around Rs 1,600 crores from the Centre for the post-matriculation scholarship for Dalit and tribal students.”
When Tamil Nadu alone is waiting to receive Rs 1,600 crores from the Centre, merely around Rs 3,000 crore for SCs and about Rs 1,586 crore for STs has been allocated in the budget, especially for post-matric scholarship.
He added that the Centre was marching towards a systematic social exclusion of Dalits.
According to Dalit rights activists, it is necessary for allocated funds to be used exclusively for the welfare of SC/ST communities, but is however, often being diverted for overall development.
Said former MLA and Dalit leader K Jayakumar, “These funds are meant for the development of Dalits and tribal communities alone, but are sometimes diverted for general schemes such as housing for the rural poor.”
While much has been said about the consistent ‘inadequate’ allocation for SC/ST welfare schemes, under-utilisation of funds allocated are also a worrying trend, said researchers.
Anirudh said: “If you look at the actual expenditure of the total funds allocated under SCSP and TSP for 2016-2017, Rs 4,499 crore remain unspent from the SC welfare fund whereas Rs 2,195 crore remain unspent from ST fund.”
Similarly, in 2014-2015, as much as Rs 20,513 crores lay unspent from the SC welfare fund, while Rs 12,466 crores had not been spent under the ST fund.