By Dr Palla Trinadha Rao |

The AP Scheduled Castes Sub Plan and Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) Act 2013 was intended to ensure, accelerated development of SCs and STs with emphasis on achieving equality on all fronts and promoting equity among the SCs and STs. The enactment, first of its kind in the country, guarantees legally that funds should be earmarked from the State total plan outlay in proportion to the population of SC and ST in the State. The objective of the law is yet to be fulfilled due to neglect and malpractices in tribal development in Andhra Pradesh.

The Scheduled Tribe population in the AP State is 5.33 per cent and the total Tribal Welfare Budget of the State should be spent only on tribal development without any specific allocations under the TSP. The other departments should earmark funds to bridge the gap in tribal development. An analysis of the TSP budgets allocated under the TSP head account 796 alone reveals the ingenious ways of injustice done to the tribals.

Expenditure under TSP was 54 per cent against the budget allocation Rs 2,155.43 crore in 2013-14, and 93 per cent of the allocation Rs 911.35 crore in 2014-15 and 70% against earmarked funds of Rs 1443.38 crore in 2015-16. The share of expenditure on Non Divisible Infrastructure Works was 82% against allocation of Rs 329.42 crores in 2013-14, and cent per cent against Rs 110.58 crore in 2014-15. However, the expenditure was zero per cent against allotted amount of Rs 217.88 crore in 2015-16 in A.P. Thus there is a need to create a specific budgetary head to park unutilised TSP funds as non-lapsable pool.

The diversion of TSP budgets has continued unabated even after promulgation of the TSP law. TSP funds in AP to the tune of Rs 2.69 crore were allocated to purchase 12 buses in 2015-16 and Rs 2 crore in 2016-17 for operating buses in Scheduled Areas where  more than 50 per cent population is non-tribal. In fact such expenditure on infrastructural schemes and other general development programmes can be met from the State Plan budget instead of the TSP budget because it is not benefiting exclusively tribals.

The forest rentals due on procurement of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) by Girijan Cooperative Corporation is booked against the outlay of TSP funds, while  both the Forest Rights Recognition Act and Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Area (PESA) Act empower individuals and Gram Sabhas to collect and dispose of MFP without any restriction on  payment of rentals.

Under utilisation of allocated TSP funds is another malpractice. For instance, the horticulture department in AP planned horticulture in 10,856 hectares under the Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) under TSP with a budget of Rs 10.78 crore in 2014-15. But only Rs 3.83 crore was released and the actual expenditure was only Rs 3.22 crore.

The TSP funds allocation and expenditure in East Godavari District is a classic example of how the TSP law is turned into a mockery. Several departments like Zilla Parishad, AP. State Irrigation Development Corporation, Public Health, District Library, Collegiate Education, Vocational Education and Cooperation Department did not earmark any TSP funds for the years 2013 to 2015.

Kakinada Municipal Corporation reported zero expenditure against the allocation of Rs 355 lakh in 2013-14, and only Rs 14 lakh expenditure against  total allocation of Rs 441 lakh in 2014-15. Surprisingly the Ground Water Department allocated Rs 2.75 lakh in 2013-14 and Rs 1 lakh in 2014-15 but failed to spend a single rupee. Similar is the case with the Animal Husbandry department.

Wages paid to ST households under the MNREGA were also shown as expenditure under the TSP head by District Water Management Agency. Around Rs 777 lakh was paid as wages for 25,600 tribals households in 2013-14 and Rs 3,106 lakh for 39847 households in 2014-15. It is an irony  that MNERGA wage are included in TSP while this right to wages is claimed by all sections across the country. Thus there is a need to monitor and track the TSP funds and its utilisation should be in consonance with the provisions of TSP law.