Like before, expectation regarding commitment to SC- STs is not reflected in 2017-18 budget

dalitBy PS Krishnan,  IAS (Retd)*

This Budget, like the budgets of past years, has come as a sore disappointment for the SCs and STs and for me who has been working for their development, advancement and empowerment over the last nearly seven decades and for others working for them. The expectations and aspirations roused by the pronouncements and declarations of the leaders of the previous Governments and the present Government regarding their commitments to the SCs and STs have not been reflected in the Budgets of the previous Government and present Government including the Budget of 2017-18, which is the fourth Budget of the present Government, except to some extent, but without consistency, regarding promotion of Dalit entrepreneurship.

It is the accepted national policy that the population-equivalent proportion of the Plan outlay should go to schemes of direct and exclusive benefits to SCs and STs (16.6% and 8.6% respectively), which schemes should be carefully designed on the basis of the needs and priorities of SCs and STs.  This alone will help to bridge the continuing wide gap between SCs and STs compared to the SACs/NSTBCs in the various parameters of development, welfare and life, which is the goal mandated by the Constitution.

The total amount of Allocation for the Welfare of SCs in the present Budget is Rs 52392.55 crores. This works out to be 2.44% of the total expenditure through Budget (Statement No. 10A of Expenditure Profile).  The total amount of allocations for SCs in BE 2016-17 was Rs. 38832.63 crores. This worked out to 1.96% of the total Budget expenditure of Rs 1978060.45 crores in BE 2016-17.

Similarly, the total Allocation for the Welfare of STs in the present Budget is Rs. 31919.51 crores. This works out to be 1.49   % of the total expenditure through Budget of Rs. 2146734.78 crores.  The total amount of allocations for STs in BE 2016-17 was Rs.24005 crores, which was 1.21% of the total Budget expenditure of Rs. 1978060.45 crores in BE 2016-17.

A comparative picture for this year’s BE and the last year’s BE as well as the BEs of previous two years and the BE for 2013-14, which was the last Budget of the UPA Government, is given in the following Table-1:-

Table-1

BE 2013-14

(in Crore Rs)

[Last Budget of the UPA Government]

BE 2014-15

(In Crore Rs

[First Budget of the NDA]

BE 2015-16

(In Crore Rs)

BE 2016-17

(In Crore Rs)

BE 2017-18

(In Crore Rs)

Total Expenditure through Budget 1665297.32 1794891.96 1790782.69 1978060.45 2146734.78
Outlay for SCs 41561

(2.49%)

50548

(2.82)

30851

(1.72%)

38832.63

(1.96%)

52392.55

(2.44%)

Outlay for STs 24598

(1.47%)

32387

(1.80)

19980

(1.12%)

24005

(1.21%)

31919.51

(1.49%)

Proportionately speaking, there is an improvement of 0.48% in this year’s BE in respect of SCP compared to the previous year’s BE, but the proportion is less than the last Budget of the UPA and the first Budget of the NDA in the case of SCP.  There is proportionate quantitative improvement in respect of the TsP in the present BE, but this is less than the proportion of allocation in the first Budget of the NDA in 2014-15.

In absolute rupee terms, the Allocations for Welfare of SCs (SCP) in the BE 2017-18 of Rs 52392.55 crores is only marginally better than the allocation of Rs. 50,548 crores in the first Budget of the NDA in 2014-15. In absolute rupee terms, the Allocations in the BE 2017-18 for the Welfare of STs (TsP) of Rs 31919.51 crores is less than the allocation of Rs. 32387 crores in the NDA’s first Budget in 2014-15.  The statement in the Finance Minister’s Budget speech (para 69) that the Allocations for the Welfare of SCs of Rs. 52393 crores in this BE represents an increase of about 35% over the allocations of Rs 38,833 crores in BE 2016-17 has been literally and uncritically swallowed by the print and electronic media. This is because of their casual attitude towards SCs and STs and their developmental needs and rights, in contrast with their hair-splitting precision about aspects of personal taxes, infrastructure, fiscal deficit etc.

Accepting the Finance Minister’s Budget speech in this regard at its face value, the media have gone on to portray this as a great sop for the SCs as part of vote-bank politics in the context of the current series of elections to the State Assemblies of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab etc. That this is no largesse for the SCs and STs  will be clear from the fact that in none of these years has the SCP/Allocations for Welfare of  SCs and the TsP/ Allocations for Welfare of STs quantitatively reached anywhere near the minimum quantitative norm.

Thus, while there is a quantitative improvement in this year’s allocations for SCs and STs, the allocations in this year as well as the last year are far short of the minimal norm, as worked out below.

This minimal quantitative norm for allocations, computed on the basis of proportionality of the Plan outlay of the last Budget (2016-17), works out to 4.62% of the total expenditure through Budget of 2017-18 for SCs and 2.39% for STs.  This norm is arrived at as follows in Table-2:-

Table-2

(a) Total Budgetary expenditure in BE 2016-17 Rs 1978060.45 crores
(b) Total Plan outlay in BE 2016-17 Rs 550010 crores
(c) Total SCP outlay for SCs @16.6% of Plan outlay should have been Rs  91301.66 crores
(d) The figure at (c) as percentage of figure at (a) 4.62%
(e) Total TsP outlay for STs @ 8.6% of Plan outlay should have been 47300.86
(f) The figure at (e) as percentage of figure at (a) 2.39%

In the BE of 2016-17, the total Plan Budget was Rs. 550010 crores.  The minimum SCP outlay that should have been allocated to SCs at 16.6% of Plan Budget is Rs. 91301.66 crores. This figure is 4.62% of the total Budget expenditure of Rs. 1978060.45 crores in BE 2016-17.

By the same yardstick, the SCP/Allocations for Welfare of SCs in BE 2017-18 ought to be Rs.99179.14 crores (which is 4.62% of the total expenditure through Budget of Rs. 2146734.78).

Similarly calculated, the TsP/Allocations for Welfare of STs in BE 2017-18 ought to be Rs.51307 crores (which is 2.39% of the total expenditure through Budget).

On this basis, the quantitative shortfall, calculated by deducting the amounts of allocations made for SCP and TsP from the amounts of allocations which ought to have been made for SCP (@16.6%) and TsP (@8.6%) out of the total expenditure through Budget,  is as follows in Table-3:-

Table-3

Allocations ought to have been made

(Rs Crores)

Allocations made

(Rs Crores)

Shortfall

(Rs crores)

BE 2017-18
Shortfall for SCP/allocations for SC  99179.14 52392.55 46786.59
Shortfall for TsP/allocations for STs 51307.00 31919.51 19387.49
BE 2016-17
Shortfall for SCP/allocations for SC 91301.66 38832.63 52469.03
Shortfall for SCP/allocations for SC 47300.86 24005 23295.86

For 2016-17, the shortfall worked out on the basis of the total Plan outlay and with the bases as the total Budget expenditure is the same.

While the quantitative shortfalls in Table-3 above have been calculated on the basis of proportionality out of the Plan outlay of the last Budget converted into proportionality out of the total Budget expenditure, the present Budget innovation of doing away with the distinction between Plan Budget and non-Plan Budget provides scope and opportunity for taking another look at the minimum quantitative entitlements of SCs and STs.

The present Budget summarises “Central Expenditure” into three categories and “Transfers” into three other categories.  Of the former, one category consists of “Central Sector Schemes”. Of the latter, one category consists of “Centrally Sponsored Schemes”.  Both these pertain to development and outlays for them are developmental outlays. Out of the outlays of the “Central Sector Schemes” and “Centrally Sponsored Schemes”, the SCs and STs are entitled to a minimum, i.e., not less than their population proportion, which at present, on the basis of the Census of 2011, is 16.6% in the case of SCs and 8.6% in the case of STs. On the basis of this, the SCP/Allocation for Welfare of SCs and TsP/Allocation for Welfare of STs ought to be not less than Rs. 156883.00 crores  and Rs 81277 crores respectively, worked out as follows in the following Table-4:-

Table-4

In Rs Crores
(a) Total outlay for Central Sector Schemes 666644.02
(b) Total outlay for Centrally Sponsored Schemes 278433.23
(c) Total of (a) and (b) 945077.25
(d) SCP/Outlay for Welfare of SCs @ 16.6% ought to be 156883.00
(e) TsP/Outlay for Welfare of  STs & 8.6% ought to be   81277.00

On this development-relevant basis, for which scope and opportunity, has become available through this Budget’s innovation, the quantitative shortfall for SCP/Allocations for Welfare of SCs and TsP/Allocations Welfare of STs are as follows in Table 5:-

Table-5

Shortfall in SCP/Allocation for SCs and TsP/Allocation for STs in Central Sector Schemes + Centrally Sponsored Schemes

Allocations ought to have been made at 16.6% for SCP and 8.6% for TsP

(Rs Crores)

Allocations made

(Rs Crores)

& %age

Shortfall

(Rs crores)

SCP/Allocations for SCs 156883.00 52392.55 (5.54%) 104490.45
TsP/Allocations for STs   81277.00 31919.51 (3.38%)   49357.49

The SCP and TsP outlays / Allocations for Welfare of SCs and STs need to be enhanced to the population-equivalent level of 16.6% and 8.6% respectively which, calculated on the basis of the proportion of the total of Budgetary Expenditure for Central Sector Schemes and Centrally-Sponsored Schemes in the Budget 2016-17, translates to Rs. 156883.00 crores and Rs. 81277.00 crores respectively.

The increases should be in Ministries/Departments most relevant to SCs and STs such as Ministry of HRD; Ministry of Agriculture (including particularly Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana); Department of Land Resources (by providing schemes for distribution of viable extents of agricultural lands to every rural SC and ST family as committed by the President in his Address to the joint session of Parliament in 2004); Department of Rural Development; Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (including Kaushal Vikas Yojana),; Ministry of Power (including Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gramin-Jyoti Yojana); and MSME (including Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme). Increase can also be made by providing for schemes such as high-quality residential schools for SC girls and boys and for ST girls and boys up to Class XII in every district, and subsequently in every Block of the country, a long-standing advice of mine, which has also been recommended by the Group of Ministers on Dalit Affairs (2005-2008), chaired by the then FM and the present President Shri Pranab Mukherjee, and by the Task Force on Educational Development of SCs, set up by the National Monitoring Committee of the Ministry of Human Resources Development, in the Task Force Report dated 21. 09. 2012. Another important area in which enhancement can be made and must be made is to additionally provide Rs 11653 crores for Post-Matric Scholarship for SCs in this year’s Budget so as to meet the dues in arrears of the past and to ensure that no fresh arrears occur in this year.

The Government needs to lay down clear-cut guidelines for each Ministry and for each State Government and its Departments, incorporating the following steps:-

(i) A plan of action to reach the budgeted SCP and TsP outlays/Outlays for welfare of SCs and STs of the Centre and of the States down up to the village and town level, and to reach the benefits to identified SC and ST individuals / families / groups / organizations / institutions in identified villages and Mohallas and wide publicity for this.

(ii) Similarly lay down systems for monitoring, associating with the Governmental systems, social workers, experts and general society members who are genuinely interested in the advancement of SCs and STs and who have won the confidence of SCs and STs; the responsibility for this should not be cast only on the Ministries of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) and Tribal Affairs (MoTA). A powerful Ministry like the Ministry of Finance needs to be associated in this effort and also bring in the NITI Ayog. The Ministry of Finance will have to provide the leadership continuously. Having provided the SCP and TsP/Allocation for Welfare of SCs and STs in the Budget, the Ministry of Finance should also take upon itself the subsequent responsibility of leading the Government’s efforts to ensure the reaching of the benefits to SCs and ST and monitoring it.

(iii) Reform the method of displaying the SCP and TsP/Allocations for Welfare of SCs and STs. The present format is of Thiru P.Chidambaram-vintage, except for the change in the title of the Statements from “Schemes under Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan” and “Schemes under Tribal Sub-Plan” to, in the present Budget 2017-18, “Allocation for Welfare of Scheduled Castes” and “Allocation for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes”, and has continued without improvement. This format should be improved by providing notes, under each scheme out of which outlays are earmarked for SCP and TsP/Welfare of SCs and STs, giving details of the nature of the benefits intended for SC and ST individuals / families / organizations / Institutions, etc., and the road laid for reaching the benefits to SCs and STs and particulars of the extent to which actual benefits were reached to them out of each scheme in the previous year’s SCP and TsP. The two Statements in the Expenditure Budget volume will be inadequate for this. There will have to be a separate volume for SCP and TsP – the SCs and STs need this and deserve this from the Ministry of Finance.

(iv) A further step in qualitative improvement will be to pool together the amounts earmarked for the SCP and TsP/Welfare of SCs and STs of each Ministry, preferably enhanced as suggested at B (1) above, and allocate the pooled amounts to schemes of greater relevance and benefit to SCs and STs. Here too the Ministry of Finance can associate the NITI Ayog and the Ministries of MSJE and MoTA.

A still better step would be that the entire outlay of SCP and TsP/Allocation for SCs and STs, enhanced to Rs. 156883.00 crores and Rs. 81277.00 crores respectively, be made into two corpuses untied with any Ministry, making both free for relevant, serious and systematic planning for the development of SCs and STs with the goal of bringing about Equality for them with Socially Advanced Classes (Non-SC, Non-ST and Non-BC castes) in all parameters, namely, economic, occupational, educational at all levels, housing-and-residential-facilities-related, health-and-nutritional, etc.

There should be separate displays of the outlays and physical benefits to Specially Vulnerable Groups of the SCs, such as Safai Karmacharis (“scavengers”), Nomadic, Semi-Nomadic and Vimukta Jati communities among SCs, Devadasis, children, women, Bonded Labourers, physically handicapped/”Divyang” etc., in the case of SCP/Allocation for Welfare of SCs and among STs, the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PTGs), Nomadic, Semi-Nomadic and Vimukta Jati communities among STs, children, women, Bonded Labourers, physically handicapped/”Divyang”, etc., in the case of TsP/Allocation for Welfare of STs.

The best way to fulfill the Constitutional mandate of Social Equality through comprehensive Social Justice measures, is to move the National Special Component Plan for Scheduled Castes (SCP and Tribal sub-Plan (TsP) and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Authorities Bill in the Parliament and getting it passed in both the Houses of the Parliament as early as possible, preferably in this Budget Session. This can help to ensure that all States as well as the Centre fulfill and efficiently implement the SCP and TsP without scope for quantitative shortfall or qualitative deficit in order to ensure fairness to SCs and STs in development.

The essential features of a meaningful, relevant, effective and objective-oriented SCP and TsP should be the following:-

 Setting apart, as two separate corpuses, the total share of the SCs and STs out of Plan/Development funds, at least in proportion to their population percentage – this should be done before Plan / Development funds are sectorally distributed/allocated.

 These two will be the corpuses of the SCP and TsP.

 These two corpuses will not have any prior sectoral allocations or commitments.

 Within these corpuses, Plans for the development, advancement and empowerment of the SCs and STs, based solely on their needs and priorities, should be formulated.

 This task ideally should be entrusted to SC Development Authorities and ST Development Authorities at the National level and State level, and implementation should be entrusted to District-level SC Developmental Authorities and ST Development Authorities.

* Former Secretary, Ministry of Welfare, Government of India; Member, National Monitoring Committee for Education of SCs, STs and Persons with Disabilities, Government of India. These are excerpts from his paper “Budget 2917-18 and the Special Component Plan for Scheduled Castes (SCP) and Tribal Sub-Plan (TsP): The History of Neglect and Casualness over the Last Many Years Across Different Governments Continues”. Download full paper HERE

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