Union budget 2017-18 witnessed a major shift in the budgeting pattern with the merger of non-plan and plan categories for all the ministries and also moved away from sub-plan policy of a targeted budget.
If one carefully analyse the budget from a Dalit and Tribal perspective it shows that there is a tectonic shift in the Scheduled Castes Sub Plan (SCSP) and Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) component in the budget.
The title under which allocations are made are replaced by ‘allocations for welfare of Scheduled Castes’, under statement 10A, and ‘allocations for welfare of Scheduled Tribes’, statement 10B.
This classification was made despite opposition by Chief ministers’ committee for the union government’s decision to restructure to bring centrally-sponsored ‘Umbrella Schemes for Development of Scheduled Castes’ and ‘Umbrella Schemes for Development of Scheduled Tribe’ as ‘core to core’ schemes which are to be prioritised and sanctioned by legislation.
A proper and deeper analysis shows us that the nature of allocation for SC welfare is only 53% is towards targeted scheme which in turn amounts to only 1.3 % of the total budget expenditure.
The general or non-targeted schemes include employees pension scheme, improvement in salary scale of university and college teachers, and other administrative expenses which are contra to the underlying principle of “directly benefit individuals, families and hamlets belonging to SC/ST Community,” as stated by the Jadhav regulations.
Although this Budget shows an increase in the allocation in absolute terms, it is retrogressive step for the empowerment and welfare of SC/STs. Several allocations that are administrative in nature like salaries, interest payments, subsidies and pensions are merged into welfare schemes in the name of the plan and non-plan merger. The plague of a large proportion of non-targeted schemes continue. Merger of plan and non-plan categories has legitimised large-scale diversions of SC/ST funds to pensions, salaries and so on. Most of all, reducing the sub-plans for SCs and STs to mere allocations for SC/ST welfare is definitely going back at least three decades of planning for SC/ST development in this country. This is not just a name change but major policy shift which will have an irreversible detrimental effect on building an inclusive India.