Gross neglect of the Tribal Affairs ministry, with money unspent, schemes scrapped and overall low spending shows Modi sarkar’s true tribal policy.
Image Courtesy: The Wire
In the recently presented Union Budget, the ministry of tribal affairs has got a raw deal, revealing once again that the BJP led govt. at the Centre is indifferent to the lives and problems of adivasi communities across the country. This is at a time when the BJP is trying to fight high stakes Assembly elections in Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland, all states with high tribal populations. It is promising heaven in these elections but the brutal reality is exposed from its allocations in this Budget.
Although total allocation for this important ministry, which acts as a nodal centre for all funding allocated for tribal welfare, appears to have increased nominally from Rs.5329 crore in 2017-18 to Rs.5935 crore in the current year, but as a share of total expenditure by the govt. it has shrunk from an already shockingly meager 0.25% last year to 0.24% this year. What this means is that whatever sectors the govt. is funneling more funds to, tribal affairs is not one of them.
A look at the fine print shows the extent of indifference and neglect by the BJP. Three important schemes – Ashram Schools, Hostels for boys and girls, and Vocational Training – have been stopped altogether. Funds for these used to be meager in previous years but a sudden death for them leaves thousands of students in the lurch.
Continuing with this attack, funds for scholarships for higher education and for studying abroad have been slashed by about 16%. Notably, last year’s allocation was not even fully spent by the Modi govt. Both scholarships together amounted to Rs.241 crore but only Rs.201 crore was actually spent as shown in the Revised Estimate (RE) column.
An important allocation is for support to tribals who collect minor forest produce to make ends meet. Long hours of drudgery pays very poorly while traders make big profits by selling produce further down the line. So, a minimum support price would have ensured a more humane income for these tribals. Although allocation has been increased this year, but last year’s figures show that out of Rs.100 crore allocated, just Rs.25 crore was spent. This speaks of criminal negligence on the part of govt. functionaries. Total allocation for the high sounding Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana comprising these and other welfare schemes has come down by nearly 17%, after the govt. failed to spend nearly 21% of last year’s allocation of Rs.505 crore.
Two important scholarships – pre-matric and post-matric – have seen small increases in allocation. But it is estimated that in 2015-16, Rs.773 crore worth of scholarship amount was pending with the central govt. forcing students to leave their studies. If this is the way ST scholarships will be handled then minor increases won’t be of any use.
Besides the disappointing tribal ministry allocation, this year the budget share allocated for the Tribal sub-plan falls far short of the required 8.6% of all allocations. According to analysis by NCDHR, only Rs.39,135 crore have been allocated for TSP (or ST Component) whereas it should have been Rs.74,299 crore going by the population share of adivasis (8.6%) in the total population.
So, Tripura, and Meghalaya, and Nagaland – beware! All this talk of “sabka saath, sabka vikas’ is bunkum. The Modi govt. has the least bit of concern for tribal uplift. Its sole concern is winning elections.