In the budget for financial year 2022-23 a sum of INR 1212 crore (one crore=10 million) was allocated (Budget Estimate or BE) for the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disability (DEPD). After ten and a half months had passed, up to 13 February 2023, only about half of this—INR 612 crore to be precise—had been utilized.
This extremely low utilization came on top of low allocations in the first place. The original allocation of INR 1212 crore was less than the allocation in year 2020-21 of INR 1325 crore. The allocation for 2023-24 is INR 1225 crore.
7 disabilities were considered earlier but after the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 ( RPWD) was passed, 21 disabilities are considered. Hence the number of persons with disabilities to be covered now is much higher now compared to the 2011 census estimate of 2.68 crore people comprising 2.2% of population. Hence the allocation should have increased very significantly in recent years but it has failed to do so, and then on top of this, spending is often less than the original budget allocation. There is a very big unmet need and a large number of disability affected persons are yet to receive various kinds of help; hence the non-utilization of allocated funds is extremely distressing. In 2019-20 there was allocation ( Budget Estimate or BE) of INR 1205 crore but spending was only INR 1016 crore. In 2020-21 allocation increased to INR 1325 crore but actual expenditure deceased further to INR 862 crore. However utilization has been particularly poor in 2022-23 with only half of the budget allocation being utilized in the first ten and a half months out of the total of 12 months.
In the context of the scheme of ‘Assistance to Disablity Affected Persons for purchase of Fitting Devices’ the allocation in 2022-23 was INR 235 crore but expenditure up to 10.5 months was INR 146 crore. During year 2020-21, expenditure for this was INR 189 crore compared to allocation of 230 crore.
In another priority scheme of ‘Deendayal Divyangjan Rehabilitation’, the expenditure in the first 10.5 months of 2022-23 was only INR 58 crore compared to allocation of INR 125 crore ( less than half).
Another important intervention of this department consists of ‘schemes arising out of the implementation of Rights of Persons with Disability Act’ (SIPDA). For this allocation in 2022-23 was INR 240 crore but the expenditure after 10.5 months on February 13, 2023 was only INR 29 crore, or just 12% of the original allocation(BE). Spending was low in earlier years also but it was never so low. In 2020-21 this was 103 out of 251, in 2021-22 108 out of 209.
Coming to non-scheme expenditure, the allocation for National Institutes in 2022-23 was INR 365 crore out of which INR 207 crore were spent in 10.5 months. The allocation for the Artificial Limbs Making Corporation was 50 crore each in 2021-22 and 2020-21 and this amount was fully spent. However allocation in 2022-23 was only INR 10 lakh.
Clearly there has been under-allocation and on top of that alarmingly low spending in several high-priority areas which means that many really needy people are being deprived of desperately needed help.
This data has been provided in the 45th reort of the Standing Parliament Committee for the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disability, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Members of this Committee questioned the department officials about the low spending and officials replied that they will try to make up. But when only 50% of allocated funds are spent in the first 318 days of the financial year, how can the task be completed in the remaining 48 days, and if fund spending is so heavily concentrated in the last few days of the year, won’t this lead to increased possibilities of irregularities and misspending. Why not spend funds in a more balanced way particularly very pressing needs of people are to be met.
Committee members also asked officials regarding the reasons for the low spending, and while officials provided many reasons, these mostly related to the problems that could have been avoided. Why create such systems which don’t allow you to reach needy people in time? Clearly there are millions of genuinely deserving people who desperately need help in remote villages and elsewhere, and for this systems of adequate allocation and proper spending are needed.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children, Man over Machine and A Day in 2071.