Long way to go

Print edition : April 08, 2011

In the case of the NREGS, showing outlay proportionate to S.C. labourers as its SCP is not correct. It only reinforces the caste-dictated traditional role of the S.Cs as labourers. It is the value of the assets of direct and exclusive benefit to the S.Cs created through the NREGA that should be counted as the SCP. Here, a tank being desilted under the NREGS in a village in Krishna district in Andhra Pradesh. - V. RAJU

Budget 2011-12 and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

THREE decades ago, in the early years of the Special Component Plan (SCP) for Scheduled Castes very recently renamed inappropriately as Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan (SCSP) Indira Gandhi on her return as Prime Minister wrote two historical D.O. letters dated March 12, 1980, one to Central Ministers and the other to State Chief Ministers, regarding the SCP in the Central and State government sectors respectively. These letters are of great significance for the Scheduled Castes (S.Cs) and also for the Scheduled Tribes (S.Ts).

She asked Central Ministers to take up new need-based programmes and reorient existing programmes to suit the specific developmental requirements and handicaps of the S.Cs so that benefits reach them through individual, family and group-oriented programmes. She wanted all departments and Ministries to take initiatives within their respective sectors for the development of the S.Cs. She reiterated the responsibility of each department to execute programmes relevant to the S.Cs and ensure that an optimal SCP for the S.Cs was prepared expeditiously by each Ministry as part of the Annual Plan as well as the Five-Year Plan.

In the letter, she admonished the Central Ministries that while the State governments had made a beginning, most Central Ministries were yet to prepare their SCPs. She underlined the concept of a Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) to ensure the integrated development of the various S.T. communities, with the aid of pooled financial resources of the Centre and the States, keeping in view their different economic socio-cultural backgrounds. The letter pinpointed the dual disabilities of severe economic exploitation and social discrimination that the S.Cs suffer from and the exploitation of the S.Ts and their confinement to remote, inaccessible areas with poor infrastructure, and wanted every Central Minister to ensure that each Central Ministry made its due contribution to the task of development of the S.Cs and the S.Ts.

In her letter to Chief Ministers and Governors, she underlined that it was particularly important to take note of the developmental needs of the S.Cs in each occupational category, identify the available opportunities suitable for them, formulate appropriate developmental programmes in their light and build these programmes and corresponding outlays into the SCPs. This letter wanted the programmes and outlays in the SCP to be adequate to cover the S.Cs and not be mere token provisions. Also, it said the State SCPs should be improved not only quantitatively but also qualitatively, and satisfactory implementation should be ensured by a clear-cut personnel policy. She told the Chief Ministers and Governors that they should see that the task of development of the S.Cs received the highest priority and that they should give it their personal attention and guidance.

I had the privilege of formulating these two letters for Indira Gandhi. Of the Central Ministers addressed, Pranab Mukherjee, then Minister for Commerce and Civil Supplies, is still active, now as Finance Minister.

Continuing indifference

The neglect of the Central Ministries continues to this day. The indifference of governments to the SCP and the TSP, the goals of the development of the S.Cs and the S.Ts mandated by the Constitution and national policy, and their plight and fate is matched by the indifference of the media, both visual and print, with rare exceptions.

In 1986, K.R. Narayanan, then Minister for Planning, wrote a letter (which I prepared) to the Chief Ministers. In response, N.T. Rama Rao, the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, while assuring Narayanan of the State government's cooperation, in a clever counter-thrust, knowing the indifference of Central Ministries, expressed the hope that the Central Ministries also would be making optimal SCPs as suggested by him.

Budget 2011-12 is an occasion to examine how far this Central neglect continues, how far there is change and what needs to be done this year and ultimately to fulfil the primary goal of the SCP and the TSP as laid down in the Constitution and repeatedly emphasised. Most recently, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his address on June 27, 2005, to the 51st meeting of the National Development Council, said the gap in the socio-economic development of the S.Cs and the S.Ts should be bridged within a period of 10 years, which obviously meant that the S.Cs and the S.Ts should reach the level of the advantaged castes/classes of Indian society in all parameters within this period.

Shortly before the Budget, the plight of the SCP came into the limelight, incidental to and thanks to the exposure of controversies regarding malpractices in the Commonwealth Games 2010, including diversion of large amounts of the SCP of Delhi State to totally irrelevant infrastructural programmes of the CWG. A diversion of Rs.678.91 crore was admitted by the Home Minister himself in the Rajya Sabha on August 31, 2010.

Incidentally, what was highlighted in Delhi is also true in varying degrees of other State governments and Union Territories (U.Ts). A task force appointed to review the guidelines on the SCSP and the TSP, under the chairmanship of Narendra Jadhav, Member, Planning Commission, submitted its first report in the context of Central Ministries on November 29, 2010.

The Plan Expenditure in Budget 2011-12 is Rs.4,41,546.75 crore, which is 35.1 per cent of the total Budget. The Plan outlay for schemes exclusive to the S.Cs is Rs.4,639.34 crore and for the S.Ts it is Rs.4,245.55 crore, vide Part-A of Statement 21 and 21A of Expenditure Budget Volume I. Though they represent a step-up of 41.74 per cent and 21 per cent respectively over the previous Budget, the base is so low that the present outlays are a measly 1.05 per cent (0.88 per cent in Budget Estimates, or B.E., 2010-11) and 0.96 per cent (0.83 per cent in B.E. 2010-11) of the total Plan, both adding up to 2.01 per cent. The S.Cs and the S.Ts constitute a quarter of India's population S.Cs 16.2 per cent and S.Ts 8.2 per cent but a much larger proportion of the deprived and exploited population.

Schemes where at least 20 per cent are shown as benefitting the S.Cs and the S.Ts are listed in Part B of Statement No. 21 (for S.Cs) and 21A (for S.Ts). Separate display of figures for the two categories is a welcome innovation of this Budget. In the last few years, the two were jumbled up together. These latter schemes account for Rs.25,911.66 crore for the S.Cs and Rs.13,125.80 crore for the S.Ts. They account respectively for 5.87 per cent of the total Plan outlay for the S.Cs and 2.97 per cent of the total Plan outlay for the S.Ts. Adding both categories, the S.Cs have 8.98 per cent of the total Plan outlay and the S.Ts 5.11 per cent. Part-B schemes add up to 8.84 per cent (6.94 per cent in the last year). Quantitatively, thus, there is improvement but it is not sizable or proportionate to the S.C. and S.T. population.

Out of 68 Ministries and departments, 31 have provided outlays for S.C. and S.T. programmes, 25 of them for the S.Cs and 26 for the S.Ts, compared with 21 jointly for the S.Cs and the S.Ts in the last Budget. This is another quantitative improvement.

The quantitative improvements are the outcome of the Narendra Jadhav-led task force exercise, and this is welcome.

It was the calculation of the task force that if the percentages recommended by it were followed in the Central Plan of 2011-12, 14.3 per cent of the total Central Plan outlay would be available for the SCSP against the stipulated 16.2 per cent and for the TSP more than the stipulated 8.2 per cent. A sum of Rs.6,118 crore, or Rs.6,100 crore more, would be required to reach the stipulated 16.2 per cent in the case of the SCP, and this amount ought to be made available as a lump sum in the Annual Plan and Budget 2011-12 to be allotted by the Planning Commission or the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, preferably the former, to be given to Ministries that come forward with specific S.C.-oriented schemes.

Huge gap in outlays

But it is seen that only 7.23 per cent has become available for S.C. development, according to the Budget documents of 2011-12. The quantitative gap, therefore, is not of the order of Rs.6,000 crore as calculated by the task force but nearly seven times as much, namely, Rs.40,980 crore. In the case of the S.Ts, contrary to the task force's expectation, a gap of Rs.18,835 crore has emerged in this Budget.

Even if, following the methodology of the task force, the Central assistance for State and U.T. Plans is deducted and the SCP and the TSP due and budgeted are calculated on the reduced denominator, the gap will still be Rs.24,570 crore for the SCP and Rs.10,530 crore for the TSP. In fact, there is no need to exclude the Central assistance for State and U.T. Plans, and the SCP and the TSP should be earmarked on those items also even the task force felt that earmarking under the SCSP/TSP should apply to at least some of the items under Central assistance for State and U.T. Plans, though I would say that such earmarking can and should be done in all or almost all items.

The Budget does not provide as lump sum the gap amount of Rs.40,980 crore or Rs.24,570 crore or even the task force amount of Rs.6,000 crore for the SCP or the gap amount of Rs.18,835 crore or Rs.10,530 crore for the TSP.

This is a serious failure in the Plan Budget-making exercise on the quantitative side. Will this be made good and when? Members of Parliament belonging to the S.C. and S.T. categories and other S.C./S.T.-friendly MPs and the Standing Committee have to take this up seriously.

Qualitative neglect

Even more important is the qualitative side, which is yet to receive adequate attention. There is reason to believe that in many cases Ministries have earmarked outlays for the S.Cs and the S.Ts as part of the SCP and the TSP mechanically without thinking as to what precise benefit will directly, exclusively and indubitably accrue respectively to the S.Cs and the S.Ts from these earmarked outlays.

To make sure that the outlays do not remain on paper without any serious intent or efforts at implementation, as has often happened in the past, each Ministry/department must now specify these direct, exclusive and indubitable benefits for the S.Cs and the S.Ts, and the Planning Commission and the Ministries of Social Justice & Empowerment and Tribal Affairs will have to vigorously and rigorously pursue this. While doing so there should be no effort to earmark a portion of the building cost of the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management and other institutions to be shown as a part of the SCP or the TSP unless the institutions are constructed exclusively or mainly for the two categories of persons.

In the case of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), showing outlay proportionate to S.C. labourers as its SCP is not correct. It only reinforces the caste-dictated traditional role of the S.Cs as labourers. It is the value of the assets of direct and exclusive benefit to the S.Cs created through the NREGA that should be counted as the SCP. For example, community borewells for S.C. lands; construction of good houses for the S.Cs; laying of all-weather link roads from S.C. bastis to places where they have to go, such as school, the primary health centre, funeral ground, and so on; construction of community study centres in S.C. bastis; and construction of buildings and facilities for anganwadis to be located in S.C. bastis as S.C. women and children are often humiliated by discrimination in anganwadis in general localities. A very valuable item would be the reclamation of the many lakhs of acres of usar (alkaline and saline) lands in Uttar Pradesh and other States, to be distributed among rural landless S.C. families.

Instances can be multiplied but these illustrate the type of vigorous and rigorous exercise required to translate the outlays shown for the S.Cs and the S.Ts into real and tangible benefits in full for them. The resultant schemes and their details should be put out in the public domain and communicated to all active non-governmental organisations and activists to facilitate grass-roots-level social audit, feedback and timely correctives.

If the amount of the gap mentioned above is provided as a lump sum to make up 16.2 per cent and 8.2 per cent respectively for the SCP and the TSP, through the efforts of MPs, the Planning Commission and the two nodal Ministries, this amount should not be frittered away but used for solid schemes that will remove the gap in all developmental and welfare parameters between the S.Cs and the S.Ts on the one hand and the advanced castes/classes on the other as directed by the Prime Minister and Chairman of the Planning Commission in June 2005. The Prime Minister's solemn direction should not be allowed to remain only on paper.

Required methodology

All these, if done properly, with a sense of mission, will take us only part of the way. To go the full way, there is no alternative to the approach I have pleaded for in working groups and steering groups from 1982 onwards and through documents in the public domain from 1996 onwards (for example, Dalit Manifesto, 1996; Himalaya Proclamation, 2004; and Draft Common Minimum Programme, 2009). The population-equivalent proportion (at present 16.2 per cent and 8.2 per cent) of the total Central Plan outlay should be set apart respectively as the SCP and the TSP before the allocation of the total outlay among sectors and Ministries.

Similarly, population-equivalent proportion should also be set apart as the SCP and the TSP in each State Plan. Within this untied total corpus of the SCP and the TSP of the Centre and the States, schemes and programmes should be sanctioned on the basis of the developmental needs and priorities of the S.Cs and the S.Ts, which will bring about their economic liberation and educational parity at all levels with the advanced castes and secure their protection from violence (atrocities) and humiliation (untouchability) and push up indicators for the S.Cs and the S.Ts in all parameters economic, occupational, educational (at all levels), health (infant mortality, under-five mortality, anaemia, malnutrition) to the level of the advanced castes.

Such schemes must include a task force in each taluk/tehsil/mandal to identify, in association with local S.Cs and S.Ts, all lands distributable to landless rural S.Cs and S.Ts (assessed waste/ gair-mazaruva, bhoodan, and reclaimable usar lands, and so on), evict encroachers and make grants with real possession to landless S.Cs and S.Ts, and a district-level task force for supervision and direction, thus fulfilling a pre-Independence national commitment; and comprehensive minor irrigation for all lands of the S.Cs and the S.Ts through community borewells, tube wells, and so on, one of the unfulfilled commitments of the United Progressive Alliance's Common Minimum Programme, 2004, and of the President's Address to Parliament, 2004.

This will not only give economic freedom and status for the S.Cs and the S.Ts but also impart a big push to food production, removing the fear of the C. Rangarajan Committee regarding viability of a food and nutrition security law covering all deserving people (who will inter alia include all rural and urban slum-resident S.Cs and S.Ts and most of the Backward Classes) the S.Cs and the S.Ts if universally endowed with lands can ensure adequate additional food production required.

On the educational side, there will have to be pre-primary education for all S.C. and S.T. children by upgrading anganwadis into pre-primary schools with qualified teachers, and, as recommended in 2008 by the Group of Ministers on Dalit Affairs set up in 2005, setting up a network of high-quality residential schools to cover all children of S.Cs and similarly also of S.Ts and B.Cs, especially More, Most and Extremely Backward Castes among the B.Cs, including Muslim and Christian B.Cs.

These steps have to be accompanied by the upgradation of S.C. bastis and tribal hamlets to humanly acceptable levels with all-weather connectivity and with all necessary amenities, including community study halls for children with computers and 24-hour electricity; and special coaching schemes to enable the S.Cs and the S.Ts to fully occupy reserved seats in higher professional and technological institutions.

Other musts are mobile task forces to ruthlessly extirpate rampant untouchability, bonded labour and atrocities, and so on. These are instances and more such schemes and details are available in documents I have referred to and in my book Empowering Dalits for Empowering India: A Road Map (Manak Publications, New Delhi, 2009).

Planning for B.Cs?

Planning for the B.Cs with the objective of removing the backwardness of each caste of the B.Cs and to bring them to the level of advanced castes in all parameters has not even been thought of seriously until now. The methodology appropriate for this has been detailed in the Report of the Planning Commission's Working Group on the Empowerment of Backward Classes in the Tenth Plan, 2001, under my chairmanship, which, like all working group reports on deprived categories and social classes is gathering dust.

All those who are wedded to the human and constitutional values of equality and social justice with, in the specific context of India, focus on the S.Cs, the S.Ts and the B.Cs, especially the traditionally landless castes of the B.Cs (More, Most and Extremely Backward castes of B.Cs), including the B.Cs of Muslim, Christian and other religious minorities and women and children of these three social categories, and who are concerned with social cohesion, national unity and optimal progress of the nation, should work proactively for this cause wherever and whatever they are, whether MPs or MLAs, other political leaders, the Prime Minister, Chief Ministers and Ministers, All India Service and Central officers, other officers, economists, professionals, educationists, bankers and development financiers or media professionals or other enlightened citizens.

Our media, which deserve congratulations on many matters, unfortunately, have totally missed the S.C. and S.T. aspect of the Budget and the virtually absent B.C. aspect. I hope they will remove this blind spot.

P.S. Krishnan is a former Secretary to the Government of India and has been a social justice expert for the last nearly six decades.

A letter from the Editor


Dear reader,

The COVID-19-induced lockdown and the absolute necessity for human beings to maintain a physical distance from one another in order to contain the pandemic has changed our lives in unimaginable ways. The print medium all over the world is no exception.

As the distribution of printed copies is unlikely to resume any time soon, Frontline will come to you only through the digital platform until the return of normality. The resources needed to keep up the good work that Frontline has been doing for the past 35 years and more are immense. It is a long journey indeed. Readers who have been part of this journey are our source of strength.

Subscribing to the online edition, I am confident, will make it mutually beneficial.

Sincerely,

R. Vijaya Sankar

Editor, Frontline

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor