Ministries to earmark funds for Scheduled CastesMay 14th, 2008 - 12:28 pm ICT by admin
By Rajeev Ranjan Roy
New Delhi, May 14 (IANS) Fiddling with funds meant for the economic empowerment of the Scheduled Castes - who are socially marginalized and often extremely impoverished - will no longer be easy for any ministry. The Planning Commission will ensure that these funds - under the Special Component Plan (SCP) - are set aside while approving the annual budgets of various ministries, says Bhalchandra Mungekar, a panel member.
“Every ministry will be required to earmark funds in proportion to the population of the Scheduled Castes (16 percent) at the very outset while submitting the annual plan budget outlay proposal to the Planning Commission for approval,” Mungekar told IANS in an interview.
The plan panel’s corrective measures come in the wake of a poor response to the government’s ambitious SCP programme to uplift people on the margins of society through economic activities. The SCP was launched in 1979.
“Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh earmark funds for the SCP in their budget proposals so that there is no dearth of funds for implementing the scheme properly. We want all the union ministries to adopt the same formula,” Mungekar said.
“General development does not help the Scheduled Castes much in bridging the existing social, educational and economic gap. The SCP aims to bridge that gap through exclusive economic empowerment activities for them,” he added.
According to the Planning Commission, around 15 ministries allocated funds for the SCP in 2007-08 while in 2005-06 only six ministries did so and in 2006-07 around a dozen .
Some of the ministries that allocated funds were those of human resource development (HRD), 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 Caste population of 16.2 percent. For instance, the HRD ministry allocated 12.9 percent in 2005-06, while the ministry of rural development allocated 10.4 percent,” said a plan panel official.
Official sources said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself was keen to strengthen the SCP programme, and his office was constantly in touch with the plan panel to expedite the process to restructure the SCP.
“Though the ministry of social justice and empowerment is the nodal agency for the welfare of the Scheduled Castes, the scheme cannot be implemented effectively without a proactive role by the plan panel,” Mrityunjay Nayak, a member of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), told IANS.
“The commission has already called for a separate cell to monitor the utilisation of SCP funds by the ministries and state governments. Since these funds are non-lapsable, the plan panel must ensure their optimum utilisation in subsequent years,” Nayak said.
The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) report for 2004-05 says 36.8 percent Scheduled Castes in rural areas and 39.9 percent in urban areas are in the below poverty line (BPL) category. 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.
(Rajeev Ranjan Roy can be contacted at email@example.com)