The deprived lot
Photo: K R Vinayan
Had the Andhra Pradesh government abided by the plans envisaged by the Planning Commission, it would have efficiently spent thousands of crores of rupees meant to uplift the country’s two most socially backward sections. A Cabinet sub-committee, set up by the state government, has found serious lapses in allocation and utilisation of funds meant for the Special Component Plan (SCP) for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) for Scheduled Tribes (STs).
The state government was forced to appoint the sub-committee in April this year after state-wide protests. The protests followed allegations of serious irregularities in allocation and utilisation of funds meant for SCP and TSP. The allegations were made by United Action Committee, created to get funds meant for the sub-plans released. The United Action Committee comprises activists and former government secretaries. On March 26, 30,000 people from dalit and adivasi organisations, civil society and human rights groups and political parties organised a rally that proceeded to the state assembly.
The allegations were not baseless, states the nine-member Cabinet sub-committee, headed by deputy chief minister Damodar Raja Narasimha. The sub-committee submitted its report to Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy in August. “It does not require time-consuming research or analysis to conclude that SCP and TSP in Andhra Pradesh are a mere paper exercise to satisfy reporting requirements to the Planning Comm¬ission,” it notes. The state lacks proper vision, right perspective, plan of action and monitoring mechanism for SCP and TSP, states the report, which is yet to be placed before the legislative assembly.
Plan panel’s guidelines flouted
In 1976, the Planning Commission formed the sub-plans to bridge the development gap between the SC/ST communities and the socially advanced section of society. The first four Five-Year Plans, between 1951 and 1974, had miserably failed to uplift them.
According to the Planning Commission guidelines, funds for the sub-plans were to be channelised from the state’s total plan outlay in proportion to the SC/ST population. As per Census 2001, SCs constituted 16.2 per cent and STs 6.6 per cent of the state’s population. But in the last decade actual fund allocation for SCP did not go beyond 12 per cent of the state’s total budget estimate, the report states. There was shortage of Rs 4,097 crore in fund allocations. For TSP, there was shortage of Rs 568 crore in the past five years. In 2000-2001, elementary education received a negligible 0.020 per cent fund under SCP and 0.011 per cent under TSP.
“In the overall budget, it would appear the state is meticulously allocating 16.2 per cent under SCP and 6.6 per cent under TSP in the last three years. But a deeper examination of the schem¬es and allocations speaks volumes of the deceit and dishonesty associated with the SCP/TSP policy,” the report observes.
Schemes which do not contribute to the development of the SC/ST communities get included in the sub-plans. A strong indicator is the state’s budget plan for 2012-13. The sub-committee found as many as 157 schemes which do not qualify to exist under the sub-plans. The schemes include construction of godowns for safe custody of electronic voting machines, construction of buildings for the Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Excise Department buildings, commercial tax department buildings and registration and stamps department buildings. The budget outlay for the 157 schemes is Rs 1,206.81 crore under SCP and Rs 486.52 crore under TSP.
Expenditure for the two communities has been minimal in the past few years. In 2007-08, for instance, of the state’s total plan outlay only 0.9 per cent was spent for rural development under TSP. A nominal 0.2 per cent was spent for water supply and sanitation in urban areas and 0.5 per cent on environment under TSP. Energy and transport got nothing under TSP that year. Total expenditure under social and economic services under TSP that year was 2.9 per cent.
The state government has not even issued clear guidelines for implementation of schemes under the sub-plans. “There was no serious effort to either identify the impediments in implement¬ation or to evolve strategies to overcome the impediments,” the report states.
For better implementation
The United Action Committee had demanded setting up a nodal agency to deal with the sub-plan funds and implement the plans effectively, and an Act to ensure that the funds are not misused. The Cabinet sub-committee also suggests an institutional mechanism for the sub-plans’ implementation.
It recommends that the Social Welfare Department and the Tribal Welfare Department, the nodal agencies at present, will continue to be so. However, two separate principal secretaries will deal with SCP and TSP. A group of ministers will monitor the implementation and a council headed by the chief minister will approve the plans and advise the government on SCP and TSP.
The committee suggests the proposed Act should ensure that the secretary of the Planning Department informs all the departments about the expenditures for the sub-plan each financial year.
“Why should the secretary of the Planning Department suggest sectors that need to be accorded priority?” asks K R Venu¬gopal, who has served as secretary to three prime ministers and was special rapporteur to the National Human Rights Comm¬ission. The secretary can help in effective planning, but the recommendation can be used to violate the special status and autonomy accorded to the nodal agencies, he says.
A whole new concept to give autonomy to the departments dealing with the SCs and STs is being developed to change attitude of disinterest and neglect towards them, he says. The institutional mechanism suggested by the sub-committee may adversely affect the much-fought-for autonomy of the nodal agencies. He also suggests that the sub-plans should be taken as five-year plans and the plan outlays should be made for five years.
Interestingly, despite observing four decades of gross injustice done to SC/ST communities, the sub-committee does not suggest that the state government should make up for the loss to SCP and TSP. “In the last 20 years, SCP was short of Rs 20,000 crore and TSP was short of Rs 4,000 crore. These are not small amounts,” says Venugopal. “If in a single state such a huge amount can be diverted, what must be the magnitude of funds diverted in the entire country? Should the Andhra Pradesh government not make up for the betrayal?”
- Andhra Pradesh Assembly creates history (thehindu.com)