The Parliament’s budget sessions for 2022-23 will commence January 31, with the Union Budget scheduled to be presented a day later on February 1 by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Like every year, this year too the government will allot funds to the Dalit and Adivasi Budget for the welfare of India’s most marginalised communities.
The cruciality of these allocations cannot be iterated enough, especially given the circumstances of a national health crisis brought on by COVID-19 and its resultant multiple crises that have negatively affected employment, security and survival.
In the run-up to the budget that will centrally preside over the resources available to Dalits and Adivasis for the forthcoming year, activists and rights organisations, flagging the funds that were allocated to the women’s welfare segment of marginalised sections in the 2021-22 budget, are calling for reform.
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The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), among the foremost forums leading the movement against caste discrimination in the country, is a coalition of academics, intellectuals and advocates fighting for the cause.
As per NCDHR’s Dalit and Adivasi Budget Analysis for the outgoing year, a total share of just 2.07 percent funds was allocated out of the total eligible schemes pushed by the centre for Dalit and Adivasi women, pointing to a serious gap in implementation.
NCDHR’s gender budget analysis for 2021-22 in a detailed report outlined that women from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were “invisibilised in both the Gender Budget statement and SC & ST Component Plans.”
The Union Budget 2021-22 allocated Rs 15,116 crore for SC women and Rs 7205 crore for ST women.
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“Dalit and Adivasi women are the marginalised within the marginalised and are often pushed outside of the development paradigm,” the report stated. It also made a key observation about trans persons not being recognised within the ambit of funds allocation.
NCDHR also flagged the lack of social security resources offered by the centre for women and children, the most vulnerable population within the already marginalised community reeling under the severe effects of the pandemic-induced job losses, increased mortality and poor sustenance.
The concerns surrounding Dalits and tribals regarding economic funds are compounded by intense statistics of violence against them. As per a Parliament report on ‘Atrocities and Crimes Against Women and Children’ tabled in March 2021, there has been a 15.55 percent increase in crimes against SC/ST women and children between 2017 and 2019.
Offences included rape, assault to outrage modesty, insult to modesty, kidnapping, abduction, to name a few.
The conviction rate simultaneously remained alarmingly low with 84.09 per cent of pending cases.
Further, on the edge of a new budget, NCDHR points out a worrying violation of Special Component Plan (SCP) and Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP), both central strategies to uplift SC/ST communities, in the fiscal year 2021-22.
It claims that 79.6 percent funds from the Dalit and Adivasi budget were “diverted” to other general schemes not targeted at the intended beneficiaries.
Beena Pallical, noted Dalit activist and General-Secretary of NCDHR, weighed in on the matter, tweeting, “Whichever Govt, they feel they have the liberty to play around the SCP TSP funds and this is unacceptable! We demand that the SCP TSP guidelines are followed! Demand effective implementation!”