New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claim of inclusive development - ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ - came under scrutiny on February 1 when rights group exposed the allocation of paltry amount for the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) in the interim Union Budget 2024-25.
Highlighting the allocation for SCs and STs, the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) - addressing a press conference at the Press Club of India - said the funds meant for upliftment and welfare of the marginalised communities have been given under schemes of a general nature such as road construction and urea subsidy.
It was stated that the allocation under targeted programmes such as scholarships, which are intended to provide greater benefits to the deprived sections, had remained minimal.
The total allocation for the welfare of the SCs is Rs 1,65,598 crore and for the STs, Rs 1,21,023 crore; whereas, the total estimated expenditure in the budget is Rs 51,08,780 crore.
The Niti Aayog, said the NCDHR, had asked various ministries to spend a certain percentage of their budgets for the welfare of SCs and STs. It had fixed Rs 2.1 lakh crore for the SCs and Rs 1.2 lakh crore for the STs.
A large chunk of the allocated for the SCs and STs has gone into general schemes. For instance, the government’s proposed spending on the SCs include Rs 15,000 crore under the Jal Jeevan mission or piped water scheme, Rs 10,000 crore under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Nidhi and Rs 11,000 crore for the payment of urea subsidy.
The highly impactful schemes such as Free Coaching for SCs, STs, and OBCs, National SCs/STs Hub Centre, National Overseas Scholarship and Top Class Education for SCs that play a crucial role in enhancing the condition of the marginalised communities have witnessed nearly unchanged allocation.
The allocations - according to the NCDHR - for the targeted schemes for SCs stood at Rs 44,282 crore and for the STs, Rs 36,212 crore.
“The Union Budget presented for the financial year 2024-25 seems to belie PM Modi's statement of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’. Inclusive development and equality are mere lip service. It is in fact a fraud of the economic rights of Dalit and tribal communities,” it alleged, adding that the benefit of general schemes go to all sections of the society.
“Apart from the benefits they get under general schemes for the whole population, the SCs and STs should be provided exclusive benefits under the funds meant for their welfare,” it said.
Speakers at the new conference said the paltry allocation for Dalits and tribals further strengthens their belief that the budget, which is promoted as a roadmap for economic recovery, does not address the immediate needs of the socially and economically backward communities of the country. The budget, they said, has failed to meet needs and address their concerns.
“This budget keeps existing inequalities in place and hinders progress for social justice and inclusivity. We are also distressed by the fact that the Central government is trying to ignore the issues of Dalits by changing the entire narrative of caste,” they said.
It is “perturbed”, said the NCDHR, by the Central government, which, it says, is trying to ignore the issues of Dalits by changing the whole narrative of caste.
“Despite commitments to inclusivity, the budget does not outline measures to ensure adequate representation of Dalits in decision-making bodies. This oversight denies these communities the opportunity to actively contribute to policies that affect their lives and perpetuate systemic exclusion. On the one hand, the allocation of budget towards the implementation of NREGA has increased from Rs 10500 crore to Rs 13250 crore for Dalits….on the other hand, the allocation towards Venture capital for Dalits has been drastically reduced from Rs 70 crore to Rs 10 crore,” it added.
Similarly, there was an allocation of Rs 10 crore for the National Safai Karmachari Finance and Development Corporation; but this time, there has been an allocation of only Rs 0.01 crore - which is almost nil.
The allocation for the National Scheduled Caste Finance and Development Corporation was Rs 15 crore last year. It has been reduced to just Rs 0.01 crore this year.
Contrary to the fact that the crime against the Dalits and tribals has witnessed a steep rise in recent years, it said, the budget failed to ensure that their access to economic justice also increases.
Dalits and other marginalised sections of the society had to face a strong wave of atrocities against them across the country.
Cases of atrocities against Dalits increased by 13.12% to 57,582 compared to 50,900 last year. Similarly, crime against tribals have increased to 10,064 cases; while in 2021, the number was recorded at 8,802.
“Despite these worrying figures, the state has failed to ensure the fundamental right of access to justice for Dalits and tribals,” alleged the activists.
Worryingly, the speakers said the budgetary allocations fall short of addressing the specific needs of Dalits in the justice system. The allocation towards implementation of Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 and the Protection of Civil Rights stands at Rs 560 crore only.
Cases of atrocities against Dalit women have also witnessed an increase. “We also express deep concern over the inappropriate allocation of funds in the budget for the welfare and safety of Dalit and tribal women,” they said.
The National Dalit Human Rights Movement has urged reassessment of the allocation so that special attention can be paid to the needs of the marginalised women and also to ensure a more equitable distribution of resources.
Speaking to ‘The Mooknayak’, NCDHR General Secretary Bina Pallikal said, “There is a little allocation of funds for the welfare of Dalit and tribal women despite the fact that violence against them has increased significantly in the last five years.”