In his budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley claimed to have increased funds allocated to the welfare of Scheduled Castes by 35% from 38,833 crores in 2016-17 to 52,393 crores in 2017-18. However, a closer look at funds the government has granted to Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, for Scheduled Castes (SC) – that’s also produced in the Union Budget 2017, shows just why the minister’s claims should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Increased allocation in funding for SCs this year isn’t surprising since total government expenditure it itself is more compared to that in the past two years. And while this has meant that more funds will be available for certain scholarships like the Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme for SCs or to strengthen enforcement for acts like Protection of Civil Rights Act and the Prevention of Atrocities Act, there are many areas where the government expenditure has been drastically cut.
Here’s a list of schemes meant for SCs where the government has dramatically slashed expenditure this year, making us question the government’s seriousness towards implementing them:
The scheme supports education of SC children in classes IX and X to minimise their dropout rate. In 2015-16, the budget allocated a total of 842 crore to the scheme, which was later revised to a mere 550 crore. Of this, the government spent only 525 crore.
In 2016-17, the budget estimate for the scheme was slashed to 550 crore, which currently stands revised to 510 crore). For 2017-18, the budget estimate for the scholarship has been slashed by nearly 91% to just 50 crore.
This scheme gives financial assistance for pre-matric education to children whose parents are engaged in 6 occupations: manual scavengers, sweepers, tanners, flayers, manhole and open drain cleaners, and rag pickers. The Scheduled Castes comprise a vast majority of people employed in these occupations.
In 2015-16, government’s actual expenditure was just 2.42 crore, against the budget estimate of 10 crore. After slashing initial allocation to 2 crores in 2016-17, this has again been revised to 1 crore. Just 2.70 crore has been allocated for this scheme in the coming year.
Under this scheme, the government provides assistance to union territory administrations and universities for building hostels for SC students.
In 2015-16, the government decided to spend 75 crore on the scheme but revised this figure to 50 crore by the end of the year. Its actual expenditure was only 49 crore. In 2016-17 too, it reduced its initial estimate pegged at 45 crores to 35 crores.This year, however, the budget allocation has been increased to 155 crore.
Meant for villages where the SC population is in majority, this scheme’s initial budget expenditure estimate (BE) has been slashed from 90 crore to 40 crore this year. In 2016-17 itself, the budget for the scheme was slashed from 90 crores to 50 crores.
Funds meant for scholarships and institutions working towards SC welfare were clubbed under this head in 2015-16. Many of these have also faced major fund cuts. A case in point being the scheme for the Upgradation of Merit of SC Students, where the budget estimate was 3 crore but has been revised to 1 crore for 2016-17. Similarly, the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis too will only get 2.75 crore for 2016-17, compared to the 4.09 crore it was promised at the beginning of the year. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar International Centre similarly has been allocated only 40 crore this year in the budget estimate compared to the 100 crore that it was allocated last year.
The scheme is meant for rehabilitation of both manual scavengers as well as their dependents in a time bound manner. Loans, subsidies, and training are supposed to be provided for beneficiaries.
In what can be viewed as one of the most drastic cuts, an ambitious allocation of 461 crores crore was reduced to just 5 crores in 2015-16 revealing just how serious the government is about welfare of manual scavengers. The actual expenditure for the year has not been furnished in the Union Budget. This year too, the scheme saw a 90% reduction in fund allocation to 1 crore from 10 crore. In 2017-18, the government plans on spending just 5 crores on the scheme.