RTI query filed by Council for Social Justice reveals how Gujarat govt used SC/ST funds to make films on PM Modi's hometown Vadnagar, ads for ‘Statue of Unity’ and welcoming PM Modi to Gujarat.
Gandhinagar, Gujarat: It seems that a film on PM Modi's hometown does a lot to uplift Dalit and tribal life. Senior Congress MLAs and independent MLA Jignesh Mevani alleged that the Gujarat government made a film on PM Modi’s native place Vadnagar and Sardar Patel’s ‘Statue of Unity’ using government funds meant for the welfare of scheduled castes (SC) and scheduled tribes (ST.) They also demanded a special act to monitor the budget grants for SC/ST Sub Plans at a press conference on Tuesday.
In an RTI query filed by the Council for Social Justice (CSJ,) The govt’s response supports the current claims by the MLA’s. It was reported by The Statesmen in January, “An amount of 4 lakh was paid from the SC, ST Sub Plan funds for a film on Vadnagar while another Rs. 1.86 crore was spent on television advertisements about the Statue of Unity being built on an island inside the Narmada river downstream of the dam of the same name. These pieces of information have come out in reply to Right to Information (RTI) queries filed by the Council for Social Justice (CSJ) which sought to know how the funds allocated for SC, ST Sub Plan have been spent on the welfare of these deprived classes.”
RTI reveals misuse of funds
Valjibhai Patel, the secretary of CSJ pointed out many instances of SC/ST Sub Plan funds being allocated to films, TV ads and pamphlets in the report. “As the SCs constitute seven per cent of the population and tribal’s another 14 per cent in Gujarat, the Government is obliged to allocate total 21 per cent of its Budget for the welfare of these communities. But the funds are spent on schemes which have nothing to do with the welfare of these SCs and STs,” he said.
“Gujarat Government’s fortnightly ‘Gujarat’, carrying an annual cover price but distributed free to many, is printed with a fund of Rs. 1.30 crore from the allocation for SCs and STs while Rs. 5 crore from the same fund has gone for television coverage of programmes like “Vikas Yatra,” “Sauni saath, Sauni vikas,” “government’s achievements” and the like. Listing out more instances of SC-ST Sub Plan funds being diverted to other schemes, Valjibhai points out that another Rs. 1.20 crore has been spent on advertisements welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Gujarat in April last year. Other expenses for which funds from the SC-ST Sub Plan have been diverted include Rs. 1.56 crore for advertisements regarding Independence Day in 2017, Rs. 1.46 crore for television advertisements for scrap iron pieces collection campaign for the Statue of Unity and many other projects which bring no welfare to the Dalits and tribals. Most startling revelation is spending of Rs. 22.48 lakhs from this fund on the printing of three lakh pamphlets containing a message from the Chief Minister regarding Garib Kalyan Mela in November last year, during the time the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) was in force in view of the assembly elections in December. Valjibhai Patel has sent a letter to the State Vigilance Commission demanding proper investigation into the scam of diverting SC-ST welfare funds for other purposes that do not benefit the Dalits or tribals,” said the report.
What the MLA’s said
Naushad Solanki, MLA from Dasada, was present at the press conference and said that he proposed a private member bill titled ‘the Gujarat SC Subplan and Tribal Subplan’ (Planning allocation and utilisation of financial resources) Bill, 2018 in the last Assembly. “This bill would make state machinery responsible to utilise the SC/ST Sub Plan grants. The bill suggests to form a state level council under CM’s chair to monitor proper planning, allocation and utilisation of budget grants for suppressed classes of the society,” said a report by DNA.
“This government spent the public funds after publicity purpose but that was allocated for execution of welfare schemes of SC/ST communities. The grants were allocated for Dalits in rural areas but are utilised for common utility projects for all,” said Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani in the report. Other MLAs demanded an audit by an independent and unbiased agency. No BJP MLAs were present at the conference even after being invited.
Minister for tribal welfare Ganpatsinh Vasava addressed a separate press conference later and said, “Congress is trying to politicise the issue, otherwise state government has two separate councils for SC and ST community and the CM is the chairman of the council. While their bill demands the single council under the chair of CM. Gujarat government ruled by BJP has given priority to SC ST welfare and one can compare the situation of the deprived communities before and after BJP rule.”