UPA failed to use Rs.72,500 crore for Dalits: Study

By Darshan Desai, IANS,

New Delhi : The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) may wax eloquent about empowering the downtrodden, but in the last five years it has denied the Scheduled Castes (SCs) a whopping Rs.72,500 crore ($15.16 billion) that should have been earmarked for them under a special scheme.

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This has been underlined by voluntary organisation National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) after a study of India’s budget documents.

Called the special component plan (SCP), the scheme was a strategy evolved way back in April 1975, envisaging that every central ministry must allocate funds from its annual plan for Dalits according to their population.

SCs today form 16.2 percent of India’s 1.1 billion population. Therefore, between 2005 and 2009, the Congress-led government should have set aside Rs.129,000 crore for Dalits. But as much as Rs.72,500 crore was not earmarked, the NCDHR has pointed out.

“The figures of allocation are a mute witness to the history of denial of exclusion. It is not only for the last five years; this trend is observed for the last 28 years since the inception of the special component plan in 1979-80,” states the NCDHR.

It points to the allocations in the interim budget of the UPA government in February.

“Out of 75 ministries and their departments, only 16 have allocated funds under the SCP. Out of these, nine ministries have allocated token amounts below five percent. Labour and employment, science & technology, bio-technology, panchayati raj and textiles are some of the examples,” says the study.

But the NCDHR concedes that human resource development, social justice and empowerment, rural development, women and child development and health ministries did make allocations according to the Dalit population.

The SCP came into being in 1979-80 and only Rs.433 crore had been spent on SCs and Scheduled Tribes (STs) together in the 30 years before that.

According to the Planning Commission guidelines, these funds cannot be diverted for any other purpose.

The ruling Congress and its UPA allies that spoke of the common man in the run up to elections allocated Rs.15,280 crore for SCs in its interim budget in February while it should have set aside Rs.34,413 crore for this fiscal, says NCDHR.

“This is even lower than last year’s allocation,” points out the study.

“While the total increase in the plan outlay is 15.74 percent, it is unacceptable that at this critical time of financial crisis, the amount for the socially and economically vulnerable sections is drastically reduced. The amount denied is 55 percent this year!”

As envisaged by the Planning Commission of India, the major objectives of the SCP are:

* Substantial reduction in poverty;

* Creation of productive assets in favour of SCs to sustain the growth likely to accrue through development efforts;

* Human resource development of the SCs by providing adequate educational and health service; and

* Provision of physical and financial security against all types of exploitation and oppression.

(Darshan Desai can be contacted at [email protected])