ALLOCATION under the Special Component Plan (SCP) for Dalit empowerment, which is constitutionally mandated, has taken yet another dip in the Budget. The fact that allocation for the social sector has been increased drastically this year makes this dip appear starker than in the earlier years. A significantly high Work Participation Rate of Dalits – 50.7 per cent for men and 29.4 per cent for women according to the 2001 Census – in the productive processes of the country has not helped reverse the trend.
The Special Component Plan, drafted by former Indian Administrative Service officer P.S. Krishnan in 1978 as a means to enhance the flow of development benefits to the deprived Scheduled Caste population, requires the Centre and the State governments to allocate funds for Dalits in their Budgets in proportion to the number of Scheduled Caste members in the population. On this basis, at least 16 per cent of the total outlay in the Union Budget would have to be earmarked for the Scheduled Castes, whose population is pegged around that figure.
The allocation of Rs.15,683.94 crore under the SCP in Budget 2009-10 is a paltry 6.43 per cent of the total Plan outlay after the transfer of funds to the States and Union Territories, according to an analysis done by the Dalit Arthik Adhikar Andolan, a movement associated with the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR).
In contrast, Budget 2008-09 had allocated Rs.14,681.86 crore under this head, which was 7.05 per cent of the total Plan outlay. If the shortfall in the allocation in 2008-09 was around Rs.19,000 crore, this year it is around Rs.24,000 crore. As a result, the expenditure on the S.Cs as a proportion of the total expenditure has reduced to 1.74 per cent from 1.93 per cent. Similarly, according to an NCDHR report, the Centre’s share for the S.Cs as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), at current market prices, is only 0.28 per cent.
This has been the trend in the last three Budgets. In 2007-08, the amount earmarked under the SCP was 7.9 per cent of the Plan outlay and in 2006-07 it was just 5.2 per cent. Many of the State governments, including Gujarat, Orissa, Delhi, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, have fared no better in this regard.
Paul Divakar, general secretary of the Arthik Adhikar Andolan said: “This defeats the purpose of the SCP as Dalits still are the most deprived people in the country.”
Since 1979-80, the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan has not been accepted as the guide in the planning process of the Budget, according to Umesh Babu, Coordinator of the Arthik Adhikar Andolan. He said: “Only in 2005-06 a separate statement no.21, which gives allocations for the S.Cs, appears in the Budget book. Many Ministries and departments have not opened a separate account under the head ‘789’ for our demands. This has resulted in the denial of an ample amount of money to Dalits. Many Ministries, mainly those involved in infrastructure, industry and energy, vehemently accept that they cannot develop divisible schemes especially for Dalits.”
P.S. Krishnan, who is also a former chairman of working groups of the Planning Commission on development and empowerment of S.Cs/S.Ts/B.Cs, told Frontline: “The SCP, the Special Central Assistance and the State Scheduled Castes Finance Development Corporations are the three limbs of the empowerment policy for Dalits. But none of them is working properly and they are being violated grossly. Such provisions are mandatory under Article 46 of the Constitution.”
The SCP as a strategy for the development of the S.Cs can be traced to the resolution adopted by the conference of State Ministers for backward classes held in April 1975. The then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, emphasised the responsibility of the government in executing programmes relevant to the S.Cs, “who were suffering from dual disabilities of severe economic exploitation and social discrimination”.
The beginning was made in 1979-80, when the government refined the concept of the SCP in the Annual Plan of 1980-81. The idea was to bring the S.C. population above the poverty line. Then, in a significant qualitative upgrade, the 51st National Development Council in June 2005, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, decided to make the SCP an empowerment tool to bridge the social and economic gap between S.Cs/S.Ts and the general category people in 10 years and allocate a total Plan outlay under the SCP in proportion to the S.C. population in the State/Union. It also said that Code 789 needed to be made operational to facilitate a transparent audit of its allocation and expenditure.
But the two most important points in the resolution passed at the meeting, which are violated in all the Budgets, are regarding the qualitative investment of funds to benefit Dalits directly. The meeting decided that funds in the SCP had to be spent in only those provisions that directly benefit individuals, families and hamlets belonging to the S.Cs. The wage component, especially of rural development programmes, need not to be included under the SCP, it said.
However, an analysis done by the NCDHR shows that in this year’s Budget the amount spent on wage labour, school education, basic health, shelter, nutrition and primary necessities involving Dalits is 62.44 per cent of the total SCP funds. But in sectors where the upper classes dominate, such as higher education, employment and entrepreneurial development, and land and asset building, the allocation was at a low 37.56 per cent. State budgets present a similar trend. Most of the funds still lie in the traditional occupation of Dalits, such as cleaning, agricultural labour, leather works and so on, which is in contrast to the theme of the SCP of systematic empowerment of Dalits in all sectors of production.
In another dimension of wrong utilisation of SCP funds, most of the State budgets as well as the Union Budget show the SCP allocation in areas that do not directly empower Dalits. For instance, in the construction of flyovers, bridges, highways, community buildings and so on. The guidelines of the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan make it clear that after separating the funds a plan for S.Cs has to be chalked out so that there is not only quantitative but also qualitative uplift of Dalits.
P.S. Krishnan, who has been advocating qualitative diversion of funds for the SCP, said: “The idea of the SCP is to economically liberate, educationally equalise and give social dignity to Dalits. Unless we create an environment where they advance from their traditional jobs, the motto will remain unfulfilled.”