Economic Empowerment of Dalits Should Not be Starved of Funds

dalit woman

Several well-intentioned schemes have been started by the government to take forward various aspects of empowerment of scheduled castes (SC) in India. These schemes are covered under the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment. Unfortunately the denial of adequate funds for some of these schemes is proving to be a big problem for the realization of the objectives with which these were started.

The PM Dakshta scheme is important for protecting and promoting important livelihood skills. The SC component of this scheme was allotted INR 60 crore in 2021-22 but only INR 33 crore were actually spent. In 2022-23 a lesser amount of 40 crore was allotted but spending during first 9 months till December 31 was zero.

PM Ajay Scheme for progress of SCs has become even more important by the recent merging of some other schemes in it including Special Central Assistance to SC Sub-Plan, Adarsh Gram ( model village) and a hostel scheme. This scheme was allocated INR 1950 crore in 2022-23 budget but spending during the first 9 months up to 31 December 2022 was only 29 crore, amounting to less than 2 per cent of the original budget allocation.

The VISVAS scheme (SC component) for economic empowerment of deprived groups got an allocation of INR 100 crore in 2021-22 but there was no actual spending at all. In 2022-23 allocation was reduced to INR 50 crore and the actual spending during the first 9 months was again nil. The allocation for 2023-24 is only INR 1 lakh, making a mockery of the scheme meant for empowering deprived groups.

For Venture Capital Fund ( SC component) there was an allocation of INR 70 crore in 2022-23 but  but there was zero spending during the first 9 months of this financial year.

For the scheme of Assistance to State SC Development Corporations there was an allocation of INR 50 crore in 2020-21 but spending was only INR 16 crore. Next year allocation was reduced to INR 25 crore while spending was reduced to zero. In 2022-23 the allocation was reduced to INR 1 lakh only and the spending during the first 9 months was nil.

In the case of the scheme for the self-employment for those employed earlier in manual scavenging, there was an allocation of INR 70 crore in 2022-23 but the actual spending was just INR 5 crore. There is no allocation for this scheme in 2023-24. If at all this self-employment effort will continue, this will be as a part of the new NAMASTE scheme but as NAMASTE is mainly concerned with mechanization of sewerage work, it is very unlikely that with the limited funds of the new scheme there will be much scope for finding adequate funds for the self-employment based rehabilitation of those, particularly women, who were earlier engaged in manual scavenging. This is unfortunate, as certainly much more needs to be done for this rehabilitation work.

In the revised budget allocations for 2022-23 a new initiative was started in the form of a development action plan for scheduled castes (DAPSC). However there is no mention of this in 2023-24 budget allocation, and its actual expenditure data is also not yet available.

Coming to non-scheme allocations, the allocation for the National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation (equity support) has been reduced during the last four years from INR 180 crore to INR 100 crore to INR 50 crore to INR 15 crore. Spending during this period has been nil (as per data available till 31 December 2022).

In the case of the allocation for the National Safai Karamchari Finance and Development Corporation (equity support), in 2020-21 the allocation of INR 40 crore was fully spent. Next year allocation was increased to INR 50 crore and actual spending dropped sharply to just INR 5 crore. In 2022-23 the allocation was cut by a half to INR 25 crore while actual spending was nil. For 2023-24 the allocation has been reduced to a paltry INR 10 crore.

In the context of establishment funds, there was an allocation for the National Commission for Scheduled Castes of INR 30 crore in 2022-23 but spending in the first nine months was of INR 16 crore. The allocation (establishment) for the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis  for 2022-23 was INR 11 crore while the actual spending in the first 9 months was INR 2.4 crore only.

Clearly some schemes  for economic empowerment of scheduled castes are at times becoming somewhat farcical because of the denial of funds to them, while important non-scheme spending is also very low. Hence overdue action to provide adequate funds for this should not be delayed any longer.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Man over Machine, A Day in 2071 and Planet in Peril.


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