TENKASI: Of the total Rs 1,310 crore allotted for the welfare of tribal communities in Tamil Nadu, Rs 265 crore was returned to the State and Union governments in the past three financial years, the Directorate of Tribal Welfare has revealed.
Replying to an RTI query filed by Madurai-based activist S Karthik, the Directorate of Tribal Welfare noted Rs 77.7 crore of the returned amount was diverted to the forest department, while Rs 58.17 crore and Rs 4.05 crore were diverted to the rural development department and the town panchayat administration respectively.
"The directorate utilised only Rs 1,045 crore and the remaining amount was returned," revealed information sent by the Public Information Officer-cum-Joint Director of the directorate. Karthik has urged the State and Union governments to handover the unutilised funds back to the directorate.
"The returning of the funds is highly condemnable, considering that tribal communities are in urgent need of land, houses, schools, hospitals, drinking water, electricity, road and bus services. A special team should be formed comprising experts and activists, who are working towards the welfare of the tribal communities, and senior officers to plan new projects for the communities and ensure that the allotted funds are fully utilised," he said.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, Principal Secretary (Tribal department) K Manivasan said, "All funds were provided to the implementing agencies of tribal welfare projects. A small portion of funds may have been surrendered due to vacant posts in the department and spread of COVID-19. Sometimes, the funds are placed under various heads as a budgetary exercise. I am sure that none of the schemes meant for tribal welfare was affected due to this in the last three years."