(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 20, 2011
Tribal Development and the Budget
THE slogan of socially inclusive development has been used by the UPA-II to mask its anti-people corporate policies since the inception of its regime. It frequently states that it has brought about the landmark Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and other social welfare schemes that benefit the most vulnerable people of our society. But its political and economic practice has been quite contrary to its utterances and this is reflected in the budgetary provisions made by the finance minister for the year 2011-12. Though the government claims that there has been a 17 per cent increase in social sector spending, the nature of the allocations is instructive to understand the manner in which government policy is leading to the economic penury and social destruction of the people. Even as macro economic factors and strategies have been getting some attention in the budget of 2011-12, this discussion needs to contextualise its critique in the context of the implications of this budget on the life of ordinary tribal people.
In the first place, it must be stressed that the orientation of tribal sub-plan has changed following the revised guidelines made by the Planning Commission in 2010. These guidelines recognised that implementation of the Special Component and Tribal Sub-Plan needed to be drastically revamped if the benefits of planning had to reach scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs). To this end the new guidelines recommended that “only those schemes should be included under the TSP and SCP that ensure direct benefits to individuals or families of SCs and STs.”
This approach marks a significant difference from the area based approach whose overall aim was to provide basic amenities to the tribal majority areas, especially under Schedule V and Schedule VI. Rather, it identifies the ministries and schemes that can directly feed into getting individual benefits to the STs as a populist measure. Thus the guidelines identify at least some ministries that deal with public policies and R&D as organisations that do not need to contribute to the tribal sub-plan. These include infrastructure ministries like railways and mines that may give indirect benefit to the tribal people, but under the new guidelines do not need to allocate any specific funds for tribal majority areas. Any funds that are allocated by these ministries towards tribal areas having a concentration of more than 40 per cent tribal population will be counted as part of the sub-plan. This change should be considered in the light of the fact that non-coal mining, especially iron ore and bauxite, is rampant in tribal areas and increasingly going into private hands. In other cases like biotechnology, science and technology and power, only minimal allocations need to be made to the sub-plan where as only three ministries have been identified who need to have schemes that are 100 per cent for the benefit of the STs.
Similarly, it has been stipulated that some selected schemes which can benefit individual tribal families should allocate at least 20 per cent of their funds for tribal development. In this way the new guidelines for the formation of the tribal sub-plan are based on an approach of targeting the below-poverty-line (BPL) tribal families and are a result of the revision of a more area based approach to tribal development that was adopted as a result of the failure of the community based development programme of the 1950s. Hence, like the failed scheme of targeted public distribution system (TPDS), a targeted tribal sub-plan is also meant to ensure that the tribal working class is increasingly integrated into the new stage of corporate capitalism that resource-rich areas are experiencing today.
LACK OF INVESTMENT,
The budget presented by the finance minister for the year 2011-12 reflects the above mentioned approach and shows a reduced commitment of the state towards the reduction of social inequities between the tribal people and others. The allocation for schemes which are exclusively meant for the scheduled tribes has increased from Rs 4020 crore in 2010-11 to Rs 4732 crore in 2011-12. However, most of this Rs 712 crore is located in the Ministry of Tribal Affairs whose allocation of Rs 3674 crore (an increase of Rs 617 crore), accounts for 77 per cent of the allocations meant exclusively for tribal people.
What is even more significant is that a large part of this budget consists of centrally controlled tribal sub-plan and grants under article 275 (1) which constitutes 62.4 per cent (or Rs 2293 crore) of the allocation. The grants under both, the sub plan and consolidated fund under article 275 (1) have been increased by 16 per cent. Of the remaining Rs 1381 crore, two schemes have garnered Rs 813 crore. which is a major portion of the funding. One of these schemes, the allocations under the post-matric scholarship scheme, has increased by 22 per cent whereas the scheme for development of ‘primitive tribal groups’ has registered no increase in terms of percentage of allocations. A notable decrease of Rs 10 crore has been made in the Rajiv Gandhi Fellowship Scheme in Higher education. At the same time, the scheme for education of ST girls in low literacy districts has received no money from the tribal affairs ministry whereas the Ministry of Women and Child Development has allocated it a meagre Rs 40 crore. Significantly, all schemes requiring some infrastructural investment like hostels for ST boys and girls and ashram schools for ST students remain stagnant in terms of investment. This shows that the government is unwilling to make long term investments for the benefit of tribal people.
ON THE MARGINS OF
While the social development schemes have suffered considerably, the government’s low commitment to other aspects of tribal development is demonstrated by the nature of the composition of the tribal sub-plan. Only 24 departments have contributed to the sub-plan whereas the major sectors fueklling economic growth have not contributed to tribal development. In keeping with the guidelines for the formulation of the sub-plan, departments such as power, railways and roads have preferred to keep away from the tribal areas, especially since many of them are relying on profit making public private partnerships for expanding their work.
At the same time, one of the major contributors to the sub-plan, the Department of Rural Development, has experienced a decrease of 2.9 per cent in the allocation of funds. Two major schemes --- the Swaranjayanti Gramin Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY), and the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) --- have been identified as the major contributors to the economic development of tribal people. While the SGSY has a total allocation of Rs 2621 crore only, 23.3 per cent of this (Rs 611 crore) has been targeted at the scheduled tribes. As per guidelines of the SGSY, this amount is insufficient because the total number of SC/ST beneficiaries has to be more than 50 per cent in this scheme. As far as the IAY is concerned, a minimum of 60 per cent of the allocated funds have to be earmarked for SC/ST development, but only 27.4 per cent of the total IAY funds are meant for the STs in the current year. Further, the combined allocation for SGSY and IAY forms only 15.6 per cent of the total rural development budget and the share of the STs in the total budget of the department of rural development is only 4.1 per cent. Still further, since a significant number of the beneficiaries in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme belong to the SC/ST category, it is surprising that no special funds have been allocated for tribal people under this scheme.
Even while paying little heed to the employment concerns of tribal people, the overall development of the scheduled tribes has been ignored in this budget. A major section of the tribal people depends on the agricultural sector for their livelihood. But only 3.5 per cent of the entire agricultural budget is allocated for tribal people. At the same time, no funds have been allocated under the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana and the Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana for the tribal areas. Even if these infrastructural sectors were to invest in areas with more than 40 per cent tribal population, the funds need to be earmarked for these areas to ensure that the concerned departments fulfil their responsibilities.
IN SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE
Scheduled Tribes have been shortchanged even in the education sector where the central government claims to have increased the budget by 24 per cent. While 31.6 per cent of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan allocation is targeted at tribal people, the total budget of the scheme only constitutes only 17 per cent of the entire school education budget. At the same time, 17 per cent of the Midday Meal budget is allocated for the STs even while the whole nutrition scheme constitutes only 15.7 per cent of the entire school education budget. The ST share in the school education budget is barely 10 per cent, and only 6.74 per cent of the higher education budget is allocated to them.
Similar problems are also experienced in the health sector where the ST specific allocations constitute barely 8 per cent of the entire budget. This shows that even though the government may boast of higher allocations in the social sector, this increase in allocation is not for the benefit of STs.
The problems faced in the implementation of the tribal sub-plan in the previous years cannot be resolved through a process of targeting which is resulting in unbalanced and inadequate allocations for the most vulnerable section of our society. Rather the focus should be on reaching basic amenities to the tribal areas and making the state do its job of under taking balanced and over all development of such areas. However, the budget of 2011-12 shows that the government has no intention of putting this objective on its developmental agenda. Rather, its maxim of ‘inclusive development’ is only a populist slogan to hide its real intention of supporting corporate penetration into resource rich tribal regions.