New Delhi: In the last full-fledged budget of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government before the general elections in 2019, a major boost the scheduled castes and tribes is on the cards, with budgetary allocations likely to be increased northwards of 40%.
The government’s pro-poor strategy ahead of the Lok Sabha election is set to find a place in the budget briefcase.
Former finance secretary Ratan P Watal appointed as the Principle Adviser for social sector in Niti Aayog has recommended that, of the Centre’s scheme funds, SC/ST well-being be allocated not less than what corresponds to half their numerical strength to the country’s total population.
The Watal Committee was asked to come up with a new formula in this regard.
As per census 2011, SC (16.6%) and ST (8.6%) have a share of more than 25 percent of the country’s population which means if the Watal formula is applied, an eighth of the total funds under central-sector and centrally sponsored schemes must be used for the welfare of SC/ST communities.
Officials in the ministry of social justice and empowerment said Watal panel’s report, which has recently been submitted to the Finance Ministry, is likely to be implemented from the next budget.
The finance ministry has told all ministries and departments that this will form the basis for enhancing allocations in the Financial Year 2019 budget that will likely be presented early February.
Allocation in most cases has been substantially raised, in line with the Niti Aayog formula.
If the new formula gets implemented, food and public distribution for SCs and STs could be 8.30% and 4.30%, respectively, as against 0 and 1.4% earmarked earlier.
Similarly, the textile ministry headed by Smriti Irani will see a substantial increase to 16.60% and 8.60% for SCs and STs from 5% and 1.20%, respectively.
Also, in the health and family welfare, this has been revised to 16.60% and 8.60% for SCs and STs against 15.20% and 8.20%, respectively. In higher education, this will rise to 16.60% and 8.60% as against 15% and 7.50% earlier.
The total allocation for scheduled castes in the current fiscal is pegged at Rs 52,400 crore, up sharply from Rs 30,600 crore in FY16.
Also, the Union Budget for 2018-19 is likely to emphasize quickening the market intervention scheme to give states more freedom to stabilise prices of agricultural commodities at the time of slump.
Besides, the Budget may focus on market linkages for farm products and strengthen the livelihood mission to address rural distress.