MADURAI: The Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare department has returned a whopping Rs 927.61 crore from the total funds allocated to it, to the State government over the last five years. This was revealed in a reply to an RTI application filed by S Karthik, a Madurai-based activist. Several social rights activists have condemned the authorities for not using the entire funds that were available for the welfare of socially marginalised communities.
Upon Karthik’s application seeking information on the budget allocations for the Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department over the last five years, the Public Information Officer (PIA) to Commissioner of Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare replied, “The State government had allocated a total of Rs 15,192.39 crore for the department from 2016-21. Of this, Rs 14,246.76 crore was spent and remaining Rs 927.61 crore was sent back to the State government.”
Speaking to TNIE, Karthik urged the government to maintain transparency over fund utilisation. “In Tamil Nadu, a high number of victims are awaiting compensation under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Several welfare measures regarding education, housing, employment, library, hostels, etc., are also long pending. So, the State government should send the funds back to the department and ensure that it is utilised effectively,” he added.
Andhra Pradesh earmarks 13 per cent of its entire budgetary allocation for Adi Dravidar Welfare, noted J Balasubramaniam, a member of the District Vigilance and Monitoring Committee for SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. “Whereas Tamil Nadu provides only about 1.95 per cent. On top of this, the department is sending back funds. This is reprehensible,” he said.
“Our leaders keep proclaiming that Tamil Nadu is a pioneer in ensuring social justice. However, the details in the RTI reply paint a contrasting picture. One visit to any SC/ST hostel or school in the State, will prove to us that much more needs to be done to emancipate these communities. More often than not, victims are also not compensated as per the SC/ST Act. In Madurai district alone, payment of over `8 crore is pending,” Balasubramaniam added.
Responding to the issue, Principal Secretary to Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department K Manivasan said the RTI reply provided by the Commissioner of Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare office was ‘generalised data’. “The budgeting process contains three stages. Initially, the finance minister releases a budget estimate, then a revised estimate taking into account expenditures will be released in December, and finally the Financial Modified Appropriation (FMA) is carried out during the financial year end.
At this stage, the funds that need to be surrendered will be decided. Sometimes, funds may not be fully utilised in some schemes, and this will be rolled out in the next year. This does not mean that the allotted funds were left unused. I have not yet received a single complaint claiming that compensation amount was not disbursed,” he added.