Poor response to government plan to empower Scheduled Castes

April 7th, 2008 - 1:44 pm ICT by admin  

By Rajeev Ranjan Roy
New Delhi, April 7 (IANS) The response to the government’s ambitious initiative to empower Scheduled Castes through the Special Component Plan (SCP) has not found many takers with just a handful of ministries allocating funds for it. According to the Planning Commission, only around 15 ministries have allocated funds for the SCP.

“It was only six ministries during 2005-06, and 12 in 2006-07. Though the number varies from year to year, the response to the SCP is not encouraging,” a senior plan panel official, requesting anonymity, told IANS.

Some of the ministries that allocated funds are the human resource development, science and technology, health and family welfare, rural development, labour and employment, and small, micro and medium enterprises.

“None of them, however, earmarked funds for the SCP in proportion to the Scheduled Castes’ population of 16.2 percent,” the official added.

“For instance, the ministry of human resource development allocated 12.9 percent of funds for SCP in 2005-06, while the ministry of rural development 10.40 percent. It was less than two percent in the case of others.”

“It should not be less than 15 percent under any circumstances,” he said.

With many ministries failing to earmark SCP funds, it has raised eyebrows among those entrusted with enhancing the socio-economic status of SCs and they are seeking immediate corrective measures.

“The ministry of social justice and empowerment, the nodal agency for the welfare of SCs, must initiate corrective measures. It is a fact that that majority of ministries do not earmark SCP funds,” Buta Singh, chairman, National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), told IANS.

The key person in the plan panel overseeing the welfare of SCs countrywide in the capacity of a member, Bhalchandra Mungekar, admitted that the SCP funds were not being adequately earmarked.

“The problem is with the central ministries, and not with the state governments. It is true that a good number of them are not earmarking SCP funds. We are looking into the matter seriously,” Mungekar told IANS.

The SCP came into being in 1979 to achieve an overall development of SCs by raising them above the poverty line. The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) report 2004-05 says 36.8 percent SCs in rural areas belong to the BPL category, while 39.9 percent in the urban areas.

The poverty line is currently pegged at the monthly per capita expenditure of Rs.327.56 in rural areas, and Rs.454.11 in urban areas.

The ministry of social justice and empowerment puts the onus on the plan panel to see the ministries and states comply with the SCP norm.

“Only the Planning Commission can ensure that the ministries earmark adequate funds for the welfare for SCs under the SCP programme,” an official, wishing not to be named, said.

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