NEW DELHI, 17/1/2012 – A delegation comprising Adivasi leaders and NGOs working for the cause of Adivasi welfare has demanded Union Finance Minister Pranabh Mukharjee for more allocation of funds in forthcoming budget towards Adivasis’ welfare.
The Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch and the Campaign for Survival and Dignity jointly met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to raise issues about budgetary allocations for Adivasis as well as issues relating to forestry programmes.
Speaking to Newzfirst, Mr. Shankar Gopalkrishnan, secretary of Campaign for Survival and Dignity said, “We have two concerns, more budgetary allocation and the evolution of a mechanism to ensure the proper utilization of those funds, as it is not being spent appropriately for the desired objectives.”
“Nothing much, except the creation of illusion, has been done for Adivasis by the governments so far.” he added.
Delegation has urged Finance Minister for more allocation especially towards major schemes like food subsidy, MSP for minor forest products, debt relief, student stipends, ITI and Vocational training.
Adivasis constitute about 8.08% of the total population in India. These more than eight crore Adivasis consist of some of the most oppressed and exploited sections of our society.
Traditionally in tribal society, land was not a commodity for sale. There was no concept of private property in land in most tribal communities.
A big section of the tribal people has been traditionally living in the forests and their life and work is intimately connected with the forest. The most tragic aspect of tribal life has been the alienation of the tribal people from their traditional habitat. Forests no longer belong to them but to the forest officials and contractors.
15% of the tribal population have been displaced or affected by development projects. The uprooting of the tribal people from their homes and habitat for building dams and other industrial development projects has nearly destroyed the Tribals.
In the tribal areas in remote hilly and forest regions, the vulnerability of tribal people to hunger and starvation has increased exponentially with the collapse of the Public Distribution System
Most tribal people deprived of their traditional means of livelihood, land and forests, are totally dependent on cheap food through the PDS schemes.
Reports of deaths due to hunger and malnutrition emanate mainly from the tribal areas, whether it be in Orissa, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh or Rajasthan.
One of the major problems for the tribal people is the exploitation by money lenders. Once they get into the vicious cycle of usury they end up as bonded labourers.
The successive Governments and all Political Parties have only paid lip service and have done very little to alleviate the condition of the Tribals.
The mandatory requirement is that 8.5 per cent of the total budgetary allocations should be made for the Tribal Sub Plan; however the allocations as well as the expenditures in consecutive budgets have missed the mandatory requirement by a huge margin.
In the last budget, the expenditure and allocation for the Tribal Sub Plan, comes to around 5.6 percent of the budget.
Even in this 5.6% only a quarter i.e. 25% of the allocation is for schemes which have a 100 per cent allocation for tribals and the remaining 75% are in respect of General Schemes in which 20 per cent allocation is for the tribals.
The total Budget Support for Central Plan was Rs. 335521. Crores, Total Allocation for the Tribal Sub Plan is Rs. 18, 625.91; This is just 5.6 per cent of the budget as against the mandatory requirement of 8.5%.
Schemes with 100 per cent allocations for tribals amount to Rs. 4732.51 which as percentage of the Tribal Sub Plan is 25%.
As a percentage of Total Central Plan Budget it is only is 1.41%.
The allocation for General Schemes in which 20 per cent allocation is for the tribals comes to around Rs. 13,893 Crores which as percentage of Tribal Sub Plan is 75 %.
There is no Central monitoring body or annual public reports on the Tribal Sub Plan. The allocations are misused as a routine with smart accounting.
According to the Campaign for Survival and Dignity The Ministry for School Education and Literacy has shown 128 crores Rupees expenditure for STs in the programme to set up 6000 Schools at block level as benchmarks of excellence. But on the ground both the percentage of beneficiaries and the actual amount spent in tribal areas seems far lower than 20 percent. In fact there are very few such schools in tribal blocks.
It is the same situation with all the flagship schemes of the Government be it the ICDS allocations, the Mid-Day meal scheme allocations or the Health Allocations. None of the Ministries have calculated what 20 per cent of the allocations would be and put the figure nor the No of beneficiaries belonging to the Tribals who are benefitting from the General Schemes.
The schemes of the Government for the Tribals under the Tribal Sub Plan are a mockery of their plight.
In the budget speech 2011 the Finance Minister allocated 200 crore rupees for the afforestation programmes. The entire amount was allocated through the MOEF. However the Tribals complain that this afforestation program is often used to plant trees on tribal land to deprive tribals of their rights under Forest Act. Often the species of trees planted are destructive of ground water levels and equally important, the trees do not provide livelihood opportunities for tribals.
The Tribals require a far increased allocation in specific areas which will change their living conditions, The Adivasis and the Scheduled Tribes are the most malnourished communities in India yet the Government has not made all of them eligible for BPL subsidies. Automatic inclusion of all ST communities in BPL lists with the requisite budgetary allocations, from within the Tribal Sub Plan can go a long way in reducing malnourishment.
A guaranteed central scheme for expanding government procurement and guaranteeing a minimum support price for minor forest produce including medicinal plants, increase in students stipends, setting up of vocational training centres in tribal blocks.
The allocations of funds should be given under the joint jurisdiction of the Tribal Affairs Ministry, the Panchayat Raj Ministry along with MOEF to ensure that the provisions of the Forest Rights Act are complied with and the rights and powers of forest dwelling communities respected.
What is required is a strict monitoring process to ensure that the Tribal Sub Plan is not reduced to a farce by showing inflated expenditure spent on the Tribals.