Better Utilization of Funds for Welfare Schemes for Scheduled Castes Needed


Welfare schemes meant for the scheduled castes have a very high priority in India in any development framework committed to social justice. However recent data confirm the need for better utilization of funds. The need for higher fund allocations can of course be voiced, but the least that can be done is to ensure proper and efficient utilization of the available funds in any given financial year.

Let us look at the high priority scheme (also included as a core of the core scheme) named ‘Umbrella Scheme for Development of Scheduled Castes’. The original allocation for this in the budget for 2023-24 was INR 9409 crore (one crore=10 million). This original allocation is called the Budget Estimate or BE. However at the time of preparing the Revised Estimate (RE) later in the year, this was reduced to INR 6780 crore. This means a reduction of INR 2629 crore. So much could have been done for the education, livelihoods and other needs of scheduled castes but could not be done because of not utilizing such a big share of already allocated funds.

Now look at the entire budget of the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment. The BE for this in 2023-24 was INR 12847 crore, while the RE was reduced to INR 9853 crore. Thus as much as INR 2994 crore was denied for the welfare of scheduled castes due to this reduction.

Now let us look at what this means in terms of some more specific schemes. Ending manual scavenging and replacing this with cleaner and non-hazardous schemes has been a widely stated priority of the government, with emphasis on stopping or avoiding the deaths of sewer workers relating to occupational hazards. The earlier scheme which also provided for rehabilitation is being phased out and the new scheme that has come is called ‘National Action for Mechanized Sanitation Ecosystem’ (NAMASTE). A rather impressive and interesting name has been provided for this scheme which would be welcome if it is also matched by efficient and proper allocation of funds for this scheme. Unfortunately however we find that less than one-third of the funds allocated for this important scheme have been utilized during 2023-24, judging from the difference between the BE and the RE. While INR 97 crore was allocated for this scheme this year, which itself is inadequate considering the national level efforts that are needed, at the time of preparing the revised estimate this allocation has been reduced to just INR 30 crore. It would be useful to analyze in greater detail to what extent such a big reduction of funds in the case of such a high priority, badly needed scheme has taken back this priority task. What was it that led to such tardy progress of this scheme, when the government has only recently framed this to carry forward an important objective?

We may look at another scheme under the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, again known by an interesting name SMILE (Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise). The BE of INR 73 crore has been reduced to RE of INR 33 crore in the case of this scheme during 2023-24.

Clearly such non-utilization of scarce funds can reduce in very significant ways the benefits that can be obtained from various welfare schemes prepared for scheduled castes.

Hence urgent steps to improve utilization of these scarce funds should not be delayed.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include When the Two Streams Met (freedom movement), Man over Machine (Gandhian ideas for our times) and A Day in 2071.

Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News