Published: 12th February 2021
Report says SC, ST students vastly ignored, may not benefit much from Union Budget
Out of the total budget, only 4.5 percent has been allocated towards ‘targeted schemes’ (schemes having direct impact on the communities) for SCs and only 2.6 per cent for STs
The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights has slammed the Union Budget 2021 for not allocating enough funds for scholarships for SC, ST students — especially because Dalit and Adivasi communities, constituting 25 per cent of the population, have been hit the hardest by the pandemic.
“The government announced a total of Rs 7000 crore per year for Post Matric scholarships for SC students for five years. However it was disappointing to see that only Rs 3866 crore has been allocated for SCs and for STs it is Rs 2146 crore, which is insufficient to cater to the growing demand of students,” the report said. Which is why despite the fact that this year the allocation for the Post Matric Scholarship scheme has increased to Rs 3415 crore for SCs and Rs 1993 crore for STs, it won’t make too much of a difference. “As far as demand is concerned, data reveals that there has been an increase in the number of enrolled students in the last five years. In 2014-15, the students belonging to SC were 13.47 per cent and STs constituted 4.80 per cent. It eventually increased to 14.89 per cent of SCs and 5.53 per cent of STs in 2018-2019,” the report pointed out.
The gap between the announced budget and the allocated amount
NCDHR, in this report, threw light on the existence of a gap in allocation of funds under the SC and ST budget. Out of the total budget only 4.5 per cent has been allocated towards ‘targeted schemes’ (schemes having direct impact on the communities) for SCs and only 2.6 per cent for STs. The NCDHR points out that through the years, there has been a huge gap between the funds that get announced during the Union Budget and the funds that get allocated to schemes that have a direct impact on the communities.
“In the Department of School Education and Literacy, out of the total allocation of Rs 9,420 crore under the SC Component (SCC) and Rs 5297 crore under the ST Component (STC), only four schemes have direct provisions for SCs and STs and they account for only Rs 3041 for SC and Rs 1783 for ST students. It is only 32 per cent and 33.66 per cent of the total sub-plan allocation under the department respectively,” the report found. The NCDHR pointed out that the entire allocation under the Department of Higher Education both under SCC and STC is Rs 3843 and Rs 1963 crore is just ‘notional and paper allocation’, “They do not directly benefit the SC and ST students,” the association stated.
Scheme Credibility and Budget Credibility
“We find that SCs and STs lose significant amounts owed to them due to scheme credibility and budget credibility,” the team states. Poor budget credibility is the indication of significant deviation between approved budget viz-a-viz the utilisation of the budget. “A monitoring portal reveals that only 47 per cent of total funds allocated. Further scheme analysis reveals that the total funds released under crucial schemes like Post Matric scholarships for SC students were only Rs 1184 crore as against the total allocated fund of Rs 2987 crore as of January 2021, which is only 39.67 per cent of the total fund allocated under the scheme,” the NCDHR said.
The allocation under higher education is with two ministries — the Nodal Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the Ministry of Higher Education. This year, the allocation for the Social Justice Minister was 12.59 per cent higher and for the Ministry of Higher Education, there was an increase of 16.47 per cent. “However, none of the allocated schemes are targeted towards the objective of the development and protection of SC, ST students. For example, the allocation to the Department of School Education and Literacy has decreased from the previous year by 9.1 per cent for SCs and 10.31 per cent for STs”, the association cites.
The NCDHR detailed how the extensive damage that the pandemic has caused to the marginalised sections has been completely overlooked by the Centre. “The pandemic has created an unprecedented nation-wide crisis. But it impacted the Dalits and Adivasis the most. For these communities, the pandemic has increased barriers to attain equal footing in a society dominated by dominant castes. This has had long term impacts on economic activity. Job losses are high among SCs — three times higher than the other dominant caste groups. Dominant caste access to education allowed for their jobs to remain secure,” the report said.
Overlooking the impact of the pandemic on SC, ST communities
Access to both schools and higher education has also become especially challenging to Dalits and Adivasis, “According to our ongoing study on the impact of COVID-19 on Dalit and Adivasi students in higher education, online education is a new layer of exclusion. Students have no access to books, internet connection or Android phones. Students did not get their results of the previous year which is why they were not able to apply to any of the schemes.” The report said that there had been a ‘multi-layered’ poverty in SC, ST families that forced students to join daily-wage work in the field in rural areas and construction work in the urban areas.
“Most of them did not receive the pre-matric or post-matric scholarships as admissions for the new academic year were a challenge throughout the pandemic. Aspiring students for higher education could not apply for basic documents like caste and income certificates, bonafide certificates as the public office and educational institutions were not functioning due to the lockdown. The mid-day meal is a supportive intervention for the students of these communities to increase and maintain essential nutrition levels and due to the lack of it both at schools and in anganwadis, there is a serious impact on the nutritional; status of children,” the report explained.
What about SC, ST students who are also disabled
Probably the ones who are affected worse than students from SC, ST communities are those from the community who are also persons with disabilities. Caste continues to remain a largely untouched terrain when it comes to debates on reservations for PwD, the team asserts. “Scholarships for students with disabilities are only general-flow schemes as they don’t have a caste-based reservation policy. Due to lack of caste-based reservations in schemes for PwDs, we have no criteria to ascertain how much of the total amount allocated for PwDs from the SC, ST budget will actually reach Dalits and Adivasis with disabilities,” the point out.
The issue is the same with children, there are no exclusive schemes that would benefit SC, ST children. “Schemes like the mid-day meal are general in nature. They aren’t exclusively made for SC and ST children. Critical schemes like Boys and Girls Hostel, National Scheme for Incentive to Girl Child for Secondary Education, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao have no allocation under the SC, ST welfare allocation,” the report revealed.
Where should the money be going?
The report found that the following schemes under the SC Budget were under-allocated — National Overseas Scholarships for SCs - Rs 30 crore, Scholarships for College and University students - Rs 23 crore, PM Research Fellowships - Rs 25 crore and Top Class Education for SCs - Rs 70 crore. The following schemes have been under-allocated in the ST Budget — Scholarships to the ST Students for Studies Abroad - Rs 3 crore, Scholarships for College and University students - Rs 12 crore and PM Research Fellowships - Rs 13 crore.
Paul Diwakar, one of the founding members of the NCDHR states that there has been excess allocation in budgets for the general population while reducing allocation of several SC, ST schemes. “Most of the budget is namesake allocation. It is not going where it is supposed to be going - towards the development of the communities. The design itself is created in such a way that the money ends up going to schemes that are presumed to benefit SC, ST communities but do nothing for their development. On the other hand, the good schemes lay bare,” he feels. When asked for this opinion on the Centre’s considering reducing post-matric scholarship budget last year due to excessive corruption, the activist ridiculed the reason, “Usually the opposition should accuse a ruling government of corruption. Here this government itself is saying there is corruption and instead of addressing it, they want to reduce funds. They are essentially saying they are incapable of addressing the issue and curbing corruption.”