Tall claims fall flat
Despite tall claims to the contrary, 14 out of 26 key state government departments have failed to adhere to Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan (SCSP), under which every department has to allocate 7% of its resources towards benefit of Scheduled Castes (SCs). A top state government official has revealed that in one particular case provisions made are as low as 0.07 per cent of the total fund allocation for the current financial year.

Taking to Mirror, a top official said the Home department has been allotted total Rs 4,643 crore funds for the year 2016-17. As per SCSP, it is supposed to make a provision for Rs 325 crore towards the benefit of SCs. However, it has provided only Rs 3.25 crore, which is just 0.07 per cent of the total budget. As per the norms set by the Union government, 7% of every department’s annual budget has to be spent in a manner that provides direct benefit to members of Scheduled Castes. Sources reveal that six departments have made provisions that are less than 5% of their annual budget.

Water Resources department has provided only 3.38 per cent of the total funds, Mines and Industries department 2.22 percent, Women and Child Welfare 3.65 percent while Energy and Petrochemicals has provided just 1.02 percent of the total budget towards SCSP for year 2016-17. Water Resources department is expected to allot Rs 282 crore towards SCSP, but has provided only Rs 97 crore. Women and Child Welfare was expected to allot Rs 183.10 crore, but has provided around Rs 95 crore. Energy and Petrochemicals department was supposed to allot Rs 545.60 crore for benefit of SCs against which it has provided only Rs 79 crore in its budget.

Activists raise issue Dalit activist Valji Patel, who has played a pivotal role to ensure state departments meet the requirement of provisioning 7% of total budget towards SCSP, told Mirror: “Take the example of Health and Family Welfare department. Instead of providing Rs 574.84 crore to provide benefits to SCs, it has allotted only Rs 474.65 crore. Members of Scheduled Castes rely heavily on public health facilities, but have been denied the same.” He further said the law clearly states that if the amount remains unspent under SCSP, it should be carried forward to the next financial year.

Talking to Mirror, Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, Pankaj Kumar accepted that the provision made has been less but the gap will be filled before the financial year ends. “The department will spend on free books to medical students and provide various health facilities in the upcoming months to meet the target,” he said. Agriculture and Cooperative department made a provision of Rs 115 crore under SCSP instead of Rs 405.47 crore. Explaining the shortfall, department’s director B R Shah said SC farmers constitute just 3.33% of total farmers in the state.

“Most of them do not come forward to take the benefits of government schemes. In such a situation, the department is forced to reduce provisioning. From the next financial year, the department will make a provision of 7%,” he said. Despite Centre’s norm, the state government does not have a system in place to monitor execution of SCSP targets. Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Atmaram Parmar commented, “The issue (of under provisioning) has been brought to my notice and we have informed the secretaries of all the departments to implement SCSP targets. We have asked them to increase the budget and even launch new schemes to fulfil them.” Countering the government’s claim that efforts are being made to meet targets, Dalit activist Suresh Jadav said several Dalit farmers from Sanand taluka sought benefits.

“However, the Agriculture department turned them away saying there were not enough funds for them,” he said. Farmer Raju Parmar of Chekhla village, near Sanand, said, “For a very long time I have trying to get benefit of rural housing scheme. I have paid innumerable visits to the government office but to no avail.” Mukesh Rathod, an SC youth from Sayla, said he and his fellow villagers have been approaching the government to avail benefits due to them. “Leave aside giving us funds, officials don’t even give information to us,” he claimed.