Section 26 of the Constitution of India makes it obligatory on all state governments to take special care of the welfare of scheduled castes (SCs), especially their economically and socially interests, even as safeguarding them from all types of exploitation. Despite this, the Gujarat government has so far failed to satisfy the needs of the SCs by making necessary allocations in the recent modified budget for the financial year 2014-15, presented recently in the Gujarat state assembly. The Dalit Arthikar Adhikar Andolan, Gujarat, has been analyzing the state’s budgetary allocations to SCs for several years now, and it has come to a few important conclusions in this regard.
According to the Census of India, Gujarat’s total population is 6.04 crore, out of which there are 40,74,447 SCs, which make up 6.74 per cent of state’s population. Of these, 22,81,573 live in villages and 17,92,874 in cities. Gujarat is a state where problems of untouchability and SC employment have attracted particular attention, especially in cities.
It was in 1979-80 that the Government of India for the first time made special provisions under the five year plan to make efforts for furthering the progress of SCs, who lived a in a state of neglect. The sixth five-year plan (1980-85) for the first time came up with the concept of special component plan (now SC sub-plan) to ensure that all-embracing justice is meted out to SCs. This became essential after the Government of India realized that the fruits of development were failing to reach the SCs during the five-year plans between 1951 and 1980, as also three annual plans.
There is a clear provision that the budgetary allocation under the SC sub-plan should be in proportion to the SC population of a state. The Planning Commission has stressed several times over that the historical injustice meted out SCs should be corrected by providing budgetary allocation in proportion to SC population. For instance, if according to the 2011 Census Gujarat’s SC population is 6.74 per cent, the budgetary allocation in the SC sub-plan should be at least 6.74 per cent. The Planning Commission has stressed that funds meant for SCs should not be diverted and used for general purpose development. This is necessary to guarantee equitable socio-economic and educational development of SCs. However, it has been found that, despite clearcut Planning Commission guidelines, this has not been the case. Facts speak for themselves.
Gujarat’s modified budget for the year 2014-15 provides for an allocation of Rs 71,330.44 crore under the annual plan, out of which a provision of Rs 3,554.52 crore has been made under the SC sub-plan, which is 4.98 per cent of the total. This is Rs 1,253.15 crore short of the amount needed in order to comply by Planning Commission guidelines.
The SC sub-plan is placed under demand No 95, yet the allocation cannot be utilized by opening Code 789, as required by Planning Commission guidelines, agreed upon at the National Development Council meeting of October 31, 2005. The result is, the Gujarat government is not strictly obliged or legally bound to utilize funds allocated under the SC sub-plan for the welfare the SCs. While a similar provision is applied for the scheduled tribe (ST) sub-plan, by opening Code 796, there is reason to wonder why SCs are being discriminated against.
In fact, ever since the SC sub-plan began being implemented about three decades ago, not once has the government ensured that the annual plan allocation is in proportion to the population of the SCs of the state, and the situation remains the same even this time. Not just this; a Planning Commission guideline makes it obligatory upon all state governments to appoint nodal officers to take care of the funds made available under SC sub-plan. But this has not happened till date in Gujarat.
Failure to allocate annual plan budget in proportion to SC and ST population has had a negative impact on the socio-economic development of these two important sections of Gujarat society. The Gujarat government should go in for making it legally obligatory to allocate funds in proportion to the SC and ST population. In two states, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, the respective state governments came up laws to ensure this, which Gujarat should follow. Also, the state government must ensure publication of “outcome budget” to show how it performed for ameliorating the plight of SCs and STs.
Analysis suggests that there are 1.54 lakh SC farmers in Gujarat, most of whom were allocated land during the land reforms period. They make up 3.63 per cent of the total of the total number of land-owning farmers of the state. The land revenue department’s budgetary allocations suggest that no provision has been made for their upliftment over the last five financial years – 201-11, 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15. Land is an important means of livelihood for poor SCs in villages. But failure to make any budgetary provision for them is quite serious. There is a need to ensure that those who were allocated land during the land reforms period are urgently taken care of by making special provisions for their welfare.
There should also be an effort to ensure that SC children are enrolled in schools, including in private schools as required by law, by strictly implementing the right to education Act. They should be provided with scholarship, as required by law, as also fees exemption. Then, nearly 39.3 per cent of SCs in Gujarat live in cities. Many of them live in slums, where there is a dearth of basic provisions like drinking water, toilets and drainage.
The state government should keep in view all these factors, even as allocating enough funds for SC welfare. And to make sure that things move in a well-oiled manner, it should set up an experts committee with knowledgeable and committed persons as it members oversee how the SC sub-plan is being implemented.
*With Dalit Adhikar Adhikar Andolan, Gujarat, National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights. Inputs: Mahendra Jethmalani, Pathey Budget Centre.