Tribal Welfare Schemes Can Contribute Much More With Better Utilization of Funds

tree planting saplings adivasi

Tribal communities need and deserve a high priority for welfare schemes as there has been a past record of neglect and exploitation. The government has also repeatedly confirmed its commitment to welfare schemes for tribal communities. Unfortunately when we look at the recent record of utilization of already allocated funds, then this reveals that utilization has been shockingly low.

The original allocation for the Ministry of Tribal Affairs in the 2023-24 financial year budget was INR 12461 crore (one crore=10 million). This is called the Budget Estimate or BE. However later in the year Revised Estimate (RE) is prepared which generally should not be lower that the BE in the context of such a high priority ministry. However it is shocking to know that the RE for this ministry was reduced to as low as INR 7605 crore. In other words there was a reduction of as much as INR 4856 crore, or 38%. This has happened at a time when there are so many urgent unmet needs of tribal communities. One can imagine how much in terms of education, livelihood support etc. could have been achieved by a careful utilization of INR 4856 crore. Hence this is very unfortunate and a cause for very serious concern.

When we look at Central Sector Schemes/Projects of this ministry then the BE for this year (2023-24) was INR 6618 crore. However RE for this was reduced to just INR 3072 crore. In other words in this context the cut has been more than 50%.

Coming now to centrally sponsored schemes the BE was INR 4295 crore while this was cut to RE of 3285 crore later in the year.

In the case of the Umbrella Scheme for the Development of Scheduled Tribes (which is referred to as one of the core of the core schemes by the government, testifying to its importance), the reduction from BE to RE is the same as this is the main Centrally Sponsored Scheme in this context (from BE of INR 4295 crore to RE of INR 3285 crore).

What such big declines can mean in terms of the problems and distress suffered by existing and potential beneficiaries of various development and welfare schemes can be imagined. To give just one example, in the case of the central sector scheme of ‘Eklavya Model Residential Schools’ the BE of INR 5943 crore was reduced to RE of just INR 2471 crore, a reduction of as much as INR 3472 crore. Only 42% was left, 58% was gone. A question arises regarding the impact on these schools, where already most students are studying in difficult conditions.

The above analysis has been in the context mainly of scheduled tribes and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. However some other tribal communities such as nomadic tribes, semi-nomadic tribes and denotified tribes are covered under the Department of Social justice and Empowerment. There is a scheme for economic empowerment for DNTs, NTs and SNTs which is briefly called SEED. For this INR 40 crore was allocated in 2023-24 which to start with was very low for a national level scheme. However this was further cut to just INR 15 crore in 2023-24.

Clearly such arbitrary cuts in welfare schemes of tribal communities are very worrying, and learning from this, immediate steps should be taken to avoid cuts and improve utilization in the new financial year 2024-25.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Man over Machine (Gandhian ideas for our times), Navjivan and When the Two Streams Met (Freedom Movement of India).    

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