In the wake of the Union Budget 2020-21, Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch (DASAM), Dr Ambedkar Cooperative Federation and National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM) organized a press conference briefing about the provisions for Dalits, Adivasis and Sewage Workers in the Budget. Budget Analysis Expert, Umesh Babu pointed out that budget is inconsistent in terms of allotment of funds for various schemes for SCs and STs. He also said that the budget seems to be increasing funds for various schemes but in reality, it suffers from gross violations of the constitutional mandate for the welfare of the marginalized classes. Under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, 13 schemes for SCs/STs which had a total expenditure of 543 Cr in 2017-8 were arbitrarily discontinued as the allotments for these fell to zero. It is notable that these include schemes like Khadi Grant (KG) and Khadi Reform Development Package (ADB Assistance) which were especially beneficial for the rural population. He also said that every year so many new schemes are announced and by the time they reach the last person, they are discontinued in the next budget. Instead of random closure of familiar and conventional programs, the focus should be on reform of the existing schemes. He also accused the budget of suffering from the law of averages and jargons and the marginalized sections are ignored.
Ena Zafar, a social activist in DASAM, mentioned that under the Credit Guarantee Fund for SCs has a mere allocation of Rs. 1Cr in the year 2020-21 and even less for STs. It is worth noticing that the annual report of much-lauded UDAAN scheme had boasted that “cumulative guarantee approved amount in the year 2019 was Rs. 1,75,961 Cr. Similarly, allotment for other schemes for economic self-reliance for marginalized have been fluctuating randomly. The government must be questioned that why there is such disproportionate allotment to SCs /STs for entrepreneurship.
Another social activist Mohini said that the claims of the government about increasing GDP is flawed as the interest paid by the government for loans it has already taken and the fiscal deficit is also rising simultaneously. The Revenue Foregone, which is a direct benefit to the capitalists, has also increased and the total revenue foregone is last 10 years is near to the interest paid by the government. She also pointed out the funds for the sewage workers are not only insufficient, but also lack judicious categorization and allotment. Also, a significant portion of the funds is spent in only two schemes. Ashok Taank, a social activist who has been working with Sewage workers for last 20 years, said that the budget doesn’t even have an allotment for funds for meeting the pressing demands of the sewage workers and manual scavengers like requirement of safety gears, training, medical facilities etc. We must not forget that majority of sewage workers and manual workers belong to the SC category.
The press conference also addressed issues like the arbitrariness in closure of certain running schemes is a reason for the lack of penetration of these schemes, especially in remote and rural India. It also leads to bureaucratic wastage of time and resources in repeated documentation and causes trouble to the eligible beneficiaries.
It was also said that the allotment of the budget for SC and STs has been increasing. However, the percentage allotment is yet far below than their share in population. This is against various provisions which mandate that the direct benefit to the SC and ST population should be in accordance to their population percentage.
They also released a copy of the aforementioned report analysing the budget from a perspective of Dalits, Adivasis and Safai Karamcharis.