Govt moots monetary allowance to poor SC, ST households

Struggling with poor utilisation of funds earmarked for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe welfare schemes, the Centre has proposed a monetary allowance to the poorest SC and ST households on the pattern of PM-Kisan scheme.

PTI
Struggling with poor utilisation of funds earmarked for scheduled caste and scheduled tribes welfare schemes, the Centre has proposed a monetary allowance to the poorest SC and ST households on the pattern of PM-Kisan scheme. This plan is a part of the government’s proposal to completely revamp Developmental Action Plan for Scheduled Castes (DAPSC) and Scheduled Tribe Component (STC) – two programmes under which 41 central government ministries are required to earmark 2-20% of their total budget outlay for SC and ST welfare schemes.

However, government analysis showed that over the years these funds were not necessarily reaching the targeted beneficiaries. Earlier in January official think tank Niti Aayog reviewed the two programmes and asked secretaries of both the tribal affairs ministry and the social justice and empowerment ministry to propose revamp plans for them, the sources said. The ministries have proposed identifying the most deprived SC and ST households as per the Socio-Economic Caste Census of 2011 and give a monthly or quarterly allowance on the pattern of PM-Kisan, they said.

“Though SECC data is now outdated, it still gives a profile of poverty and deprivation. This will be used to identify the poorest of the poor households,” said a senior official who did not wish to be identified. As per the new proposal, the system of ministries earmarking a certain percentage of their budget allocation for SC and ST welfare schemes will be discarded, sources said. Instead, a central fund has been mooted for the targeted programmes.


“This would mean cutting down the budgets of 41 ministries as creating a central fund means slashing the budgets of ministries that were allocating funds for SC and ST welfare,” said the official cited earlier. In 2019-20, the ministries had allocated Rs 81,340.74 crore for SC welfare schemes and Rs 51,283.53 crore for STs. However, government analysis has shown that over the years the ministries have been struggling to spend the earmarked funds and usually do “notional allocation.”

This refers to allocation on generic schemes rather than targeted programmes as envisaged under the programmes. For instance, the earmarked funds would be allocated for mid-day meals in schools, or in construction of national highways, reasoning that the beneficiaries are mainly people belonging to SCs and STs living in these areas.

The new plan, reviewed by ET, has proposed identifying eight key sectors – education, skill development, income generating activities, agriculture, health, nutrition, infrastructure and housing. Allocations for each of these sectors will be fixed. The two nodal ministries – social justice and tribal affairs – would identify targeted programmes and schemes which would directly benefit SC and STs. These would include scholarships for meritorious SC and ST students, funding of skilling programmes or allied activities like fishery and animal husbandry for SCs and STs. The proposal would now be sent for inter-ministerial consultations. “It is a revolutionary step, but would need approval of all ministries as it means cutting their funds too,” said the official cited earlier.
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Politically, it could be a tricky exercise as allowance to the poorest SC and ST households is similar to ‘Nyay’ minimum income guarantee scheme that Congress had used as its main poll plank in the 2019 parliamentary elections. Through the Covid-19 outbreak, the principal opposition party has been demanding that the Modi government unveil Nyay and put money directly in the hands of the people.
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