Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposed a sharp rise in capital expenditure for the next fiscal to Rs 5.54 lakh crore, from Rs 4.39 lakh crore in the current financial year on February 1. On Monday, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawarchand Gehlot said that allocation of funds for schemes benefitting the Scheduled Castes by all ministries saw a 50 percent hike in Budget 21-22 as compared to last year. A sum of Rs 1,26,259.20 crore has been allocated for the same in 2021-2022, which notes a 51.65 percent increase from last year. In the case of ST, Rs 79,942 crore has been earmarked, which is also a considerable increase from last year.
Despite an improvement in allocation from previous years, SC/ST activists have called out on the discrepancies in Budget 2021-22 with regard to the welfare of the communities. As per a report titled 'Dalit Adivasi Budget Analysis 2021-22' by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, the budget shows a considerable gap in the allocation of funds as opposed to what prescribed by NITI Ayog.
Dalit and Adivasi budget expert Paul Divakar of the Asia Dalit Rights Forum pointed out that despite the increase, there was a distinct "allocation gap" in the funds allotted to SCs and STs as per NITI AAyog's guidelines. According to the latter, the allotment due to SCs is Rs 161,260 crores while for ST, it is Rs 88,077 crore. But Budget 21-22 only allocated Rs 1,26,259.20 crore for SC and Rs 79,942 crore for ST.
"There is a total gap in the allocation of Rs 1,12,863 Cr under SC Budget and Rs 60,247 Cr under ST Budget," Divakar points out.
Divakar cites the example of the budgetary increase in funding for education. For promoting education for Dalit students, the Centre has allocated Rs 3,416 crore in 2021-22 toward the post-matric scholarship scheme which caters to the needs of hundreds of Dalit students. A total of Rs 35,534 crore has been earmarked for over five years.
In December 2020, the Cabinet led by PM Narendra Modi approved a proposal to invest Rs 59,048 crore for the post-matric scholarship scheme and also said it will bear 60 percent of the costs (Rs 35,534 crore)
"If Rs 35,534 crore was allotted for 5 years, the Budget should have allocated Rs Rs 7,106 crore toward the scheme this year. And yet only Rs 3,416 has been allotted, which is nearly half of what the Cabinet approved a month ago," Divakar tells News18.
Moreover, Divakar points out that even within the allotted funds, the Budget 2021 failed to allocate sufficient funds toward targeted schemes for the oppressed communities. Targeted schemes are the ones that have a direct impact on the community as opposed to general schemes like ICDS, PM Kisan Yojana and others not specifically designed to help the SC and ST community.
Out of the total budget allocated for SCs, only Rs 48,397 Cr (4.5 percent) has been allocated towards Targeted schemes and for STs it Rs 27,830 Cr (2.6 percent).
"In terms of schemes, most allocations are either notional or general in nature and do not have any great impact on improving the lives of those in the community," the activist observes.
Manual Scavengers, PWD overlooked
One of the underlooked sectors that activists have called attention to is the low budget Dalit and Adivasi women.
The total allocations for SC women is Rs. 15116 Cr and ST women is Rs. 7205 Cr which amounts to 1.4% and 0.67% respectively of the total eligible Centrally Sponsored schemes and Central Sector schemes.
"This is woefully less when compared considering the scale of the needs of Dalit or Adivasi women, who are marginalized even within the marginalised," National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) General Secretary Beena Pallical tells News18. The activist also pointed out that only Rs 600 crore has been allotted for the implementation of PoA act and PCR Act aimed at preventing atrocities against ST and SC. In addition, SC and ST transpersons have been given a complete miss while the budget for the welfare of persons with disabilities was also considerably reduced from Rs 1,325 crore in 2020-21 to Rs 1,172 crore in 2021-22.
Yet another aspect that the Budget was found wanting was in its allocation of funds toward SC/ST members involved in manual scavenging. As opposed to last year, Budget 21-11 allocated Rs 100 crore for a self-employment scheme for rehabilitation of manual scavengers, which is Rs 10 crore less than last year. No allocations have been made for Pre Matric Scholarship for children manual scavengers as opposed to Rs 25 crore which was earmarked for the same in 20-21.
"The budget reflects the lack of inclusivity and intent to help improve the lives of those in SC and ST communities," Pallical said, adding that the lack of SC/ST representation or consultation in Budget creation was a leading cause of the problem.