In the new National Budget of India, presented last week, only 4% of the total budget has been allocated to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (SC/STs)- Dalits and Tribals – who make up more than 24% of the total population.
The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) write in a press release on this issue that with the massive shortfall in funds allocated to Dalits and Tribals the government is paying mere lip service, and no real policy concern, to doing something about the hardships faced by the country’s poorest and most vulnerable groups.
Several departments have not allocated any funds at all for Dalits and Tribals including the Departments of Coal, Road transport and highways, Railways, Power, Space, Civil Aviation, Home, Petroleum and Chemicals and more. This means that there are very few allocations for economic services hampering any real economic development for Dalits and Tribals, relegating them to being service providers for the rest of society. This only serves to cement the age old caste system where Dalits are subservient to the rest of society. Last year’s budgets were no better.
It is therefore no wonder that India is 119 out of 169 countries on the UN Human Development Index, coming in below countries like Sri Lanka. According to World Bank statistics, India is also home to around a third of the worlds poor and has more cases of malnutrition than the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.
If the Government does not start living up to their budget commitments to support the economic development of the country’s poorest – these dismal statistics may never change.