The first ever audit of the budgets of 26 states by the Scheduled Caste Commission has found that for the financial year 2012-13, almost all states failed to spend allocated funds on "SC-specific" schemes. The report is yet to be tabled in Parliament.
"The expenditure on SC-specific schemes is just a small fraction of the total allocation to SCSP across the country," said PL Punia, SC Commission chairperson.
Budget guidelines state that ministries and departments must earmark funds under the SCSP at least in proportion to the community's population in the states. According to Census 2011, the SC community constitutes 16.6 per cent of the country's population.
In 2012-13, the 26 states were allotted Rs 80,310 crore for SCSP schemes. The audit found that Rs 61,480 crore of that was spent, but only Rs 9,920 crore, or just 12 per cent of the total allocation, was spent on SC-specific schemes. The rest was diverted to other schemes, according to The Indian Express.
State officials blame "faulty auditing" for this discrepancy, and say that it is difficult to separate funds for scheduled castes because infrastructure schemes such as roads, toilets, schools and drinking water covered the entire population, and that these projects should also fall under the SCSP schemes.
However, budgetary guidelines say that "only those schemes should be included under SCSP which ensure direct benefits to individuals or families belonging to SCs".
"SCSP funds are meant for SCs only, but are diverted to other areas," said Punia.
Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot said: "We will act on the basis of the commission's report. We are calling all departments concerned and holding meetings with the states. We are trying, but still we continue to receive such complaints. We will take action."
Points noted by the commission
- 19 of 26 states allocated funds for SCSP that were in proportion, less than the SC community's population.
- None of the 26 states spent even half the funds under the SCSP account on "SC-specific schemes".
- Only 14 states spent more than 10 per cent of the total spent funds under the SCSP on "SC-specific schemes".
- Gujarat, UP and Bihar spent less than 20 per cent funds on SC-specific schemes, while Chhattisgarh, West Bengal performed the worst.
- Punjab allocated 28.85 per cent of the state budget under SCSP but spent just 4.81 per cent of that allocation on SC-specific schemes.
Responses from state officials
NK Aswal, additional chief secretary, SC & ST Development, Chhattisgarh:
"There are general schemes and there are SC-specific schemes. The SC commission has not correctly defined the funds meant for the SC-specific schemes. Our funds are reaching the SCs and benefitting the community."
KD Kapadia, director, Gujarat SC Welfare department:
"In our state, the SC population is scattered. Many villages have more than 250 members in the SC segment. The schemes implemented in the areas surrounding these villages should be considered under SCSP. In urban areas, many wards have a significant population of SCs. Urban Local Bodies provide many facilities i.e., street lights, overhead water tanks, roads, footpaths, drinking water, drainage, schools, community toilets, dispensaries, etc., in such wards. These should be included in outlay for SCSP."
KS Saroj, secretary (Welfare of SCs and BCs), Punjab:
"We allocate funds for SCs in proportion to the SC population in Punjab. The expenditure on SC schemes is also undertaken in the same way. We don't know how the commission has found such discrepancies between allocation and expenditure."