From PM Kisan to Guarantees: How Dalit and Tribal welfare funds are spent in Karnataka

Siddaramaiah, as LoP had opposed utilising SCSP/TSP funds for infrastructure but as CM, his government is using them to fund Guarantees.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Jul 09, 2024 | 12:00 PM Updated Jul 09, 2024 | 12:00 PM

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Implemented in 2013 via an Act, the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (SCSP) and Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) funds are being diverted by successive governments in Karnataka from their intended purpose of exclusive development and welfare of SC/ST communities. The funds meant exclusively for welfare of Dalit and Tribal beneficiaries are often diverted to generic infrastructure projects, social welfare schemes.

Irrespective of the party in power, SCSP/TSP funds have been consistently allocated to generic schemes and projects, sparking widespread criticism from the ruling party leaders, Opposition leaders and SC/ST community representatives.

The lack of stringent regulations and oversight has enabled this misuse, prompting demands for greater scrutiny and accountability to ensure that these funds are utilised for their intended purpose, rather than exploited for political gains.

While the government claims that it has scrapped section 7(D) of the SCSP/TSP Act, which allows the utilisation of the sub-plans under ‘deemed expenditure’, the Opposition BJP blames the Congress government for lying on the matter. It was the Siddaramaiah government that scrapped 7(D) of the SCSP/TSP after coming to power in Karnataka.

Amidst this, the SC/ST leaders in Karnataka demand the government bring out a strict law against the diversion of SCSP/TSP funds and spend the money on individual benefiting schemes for the SC/ST instead of generic schemes.

This issue came to the fore recently as the Siddaramaiah government decided to utilise over ₹14,000 crore of the SCP/TSP grants to fund the five guarantee schemes.

In the previous fiscal year, the Karnataka government utilised around ₹11,000 crore from the SCSP/TSP funds for the guarantees.

The Opposition BJP in the state alleged that the Congress government was diverting the funds to fulfil its poll promises — the six guarantees.

Also Read: Karnataka BJP alleges diversion of SC/ST welfare funds towards five guarantees

How are the funds being utilised?

According to reports, SCSP/TSP funds have been utilised for schemes such as the Prime Minister Fasal Bima Scheme, Prime Minister Krishi Samman Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayi Scheme, and National Horticulture Mission, among others.

While these schemes benefit a wider audience, critics argue that diverting SCSP/TSP funds away from their intended purpose undermines the government’s commitment to the welfare of SC and ST communities.

For instance, as per the annual report of SCSP/TSP for the year 2022-23 fiscal year, ₹376.90 crore was spent under the Prime Minister Fasal Bima Scheme, benefiting 1.42 lakh SC farmers and 1.15 lakh ST farmers. Similarly, ₹129.73 crore was spent under the Prime Minister Krishi Samman Scheme, benefiting 4.07 lakh SC farmers and 2.47 lakh ST farmers.

Furthermore, ₹182.23 crore was spent under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Scheme, benefiting 5,657 SC farmers and 4,106 ST farmers, and ₹30.86 crore was spent under the National Horticulture Mission, benefiting 5,164 SC farmers and 2,144 ST farmers.

Additionally, ₹138.51 crore was spent to provide incentives to SC/ST members supplying milk to Milk Cooperative Societies, benefiting 70,203 SC and 37,888 ST beneficiaries.

From 2018 to 2021, the department of irrigation, urban development and rural development, and panchayat raj received ₹7,885.32 crore for drinking water projects, drainage repair, irrigation and other civil works under a provision by the state government.

Irrespective of political parties at the helm, the governments in Karnataka have utilised the funds meant for SC/ST Welfare, according to a news report published in the Deccan Herald.

Even though the end benefactors belong to the SC and ST communities, SCSP/STP funds are being diverted to various generic schemes, instead of using them for exclusive projects.

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Demands of using the funds for SC/ST welfare

Along with SC and ST community leaders, BJP, JD(S), and Congress leaders in Karnataka have also spoken out against the alleged diversion of SCSP/TSP funds, stressing the need for stringent regulations and special programs that directly benefit the Dalit communities.

Former deputy chief minister and Chitradurga (SC) MP Govind Karjol told South First that the SCP/TSP funds need to be utilised for the development of SC/ST in providing education, better health, employment, subsidy to set-up industries and purchasing lands for the landless.

“These grants can also be spent for irrigation works. Lands belonging to the farmers from the SC and ST communities can be irrigated by digging borewells and providing pipeline connections to their lands. The amount must be spent for the programmes directly benefiting them,” said the senior BJP leader.

He also admitted that irrespective of the parties at the helm, the SCP/TSP grants have been utilised for generic works and needed more stringent regulation.

“However, when I was social welfare minister, I spent SCP/TSP grants on building residential schools for SCs/STs and hostels, purchasing lands for the landless, sanctioning borewells under the Ganga Kalyana scheme. We have not diverted these funds for the generic schemes. Similarly, the government must not utilise these funds for the general schemes,” Karjol said.

Accusing the state government of misleading the public, BJP MLC Chalavadi Narayanaswamy pointed out: “We are fighting to scrap the section 7(D), that deals with the deemed expenditure, the state government has to eliminate it. The chief minister had vowed that he would remove it.”

“But he has not yet scrapped it. They are now claiming that they are utilising SCP/TSP grants under section 7(C),” he said.

“We are not yet convinced of their justification. We are going to fight against this in the upcoming session. However, our fight would be towards ensuring these funds are utilised for the core works instead of generic schemes,” Chalavadi said.

The monsoon session of the Karnataka legislature will start on 15 July.

JD(S)’s Devadurga (ST) MLA Karemma G Nayak told South First that the SC and ST communities remain underdeveloped in several areas of the state including in his segment even after 75 years of independence.

“It is good that the government is allocating 24.10 percent of the total budget to the SCP/TSP. The allocated money belongs to the SCs and STs and it should not be utilised for the generic schemes. I am also part of one of the SC/ST committees in the state government. We have made deliberations on these matters,” added the JD(S) MLA.

“There is a need for the strict laws in place to ensure that the 24.10 percent of the budget is utilised only for the communities it is aimed at,” Nayak added.

Nayak added that she has been raising her voice against discontinuing several SCP/TSP grants for the last year.

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The Act

The state government enacted the Karnataka Scheduled Castes Sub-Allocation and Tribal-Sub Allocation (Planning, Allocation and Utilisation of Financial Resources) Act in 2013.

Following its norms, the government allocated ₹15,894.66 crore in its very first budgetary allocation in 2014-15.

At present, the budget size of the SCP/TSP has doubled 2.5 times, with the state government allocating ₹39,121 crore for the 2024-25 fiscal year. The average expenditure of SCP/TSP grants stands at 93.61 percent in the last 10 years.

According to the SCP/TSP norms for allocation of funds: “Under Section 7(A) grants will be released for individual development. Section 7(B) provides grants for the development of colonies, benefiting SC/ST habitations.”

“The section 7(C) is aimed at spending on the social sector. Under this section, for general social sector schemes included in the subplans scheme cost will be allocated in proportion to the SC/ST population,” as per the SCP/TSP act.

‘Should not be used for anything else’

Meanwhile, Additional Chief Secretary (Finance Department) LK Atheeq told South First that the SCSP/TSP funds could be utilised for any projects that directly benefit Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

“In case, a generic scheme has to be taken then at least 50 percent of the population have to consist of SC/ST,” he said.

“Any schemes that do not directly benefit SCs and STs then for such programmes SCSP/TSP funds cannot be utilised. SCSP/TSP funds are not permitted for generic expenditure. It was permitted for generic expenditure if at least 40 percent of the benefit was presumed to be flowing for the SC/ST. But it was under Section 7(D) of the SCP/TSP Act. Section 7(D) has now been scrapped,” he added.

When asked whether the government planned to bring any amendments to prevent the diversion of SCP/TSP funds, he pointed out: “No such amendments are planned nor are they needed. Because there is no question of diverting SCSP/TSP grants to any other benefits.”

“If there are any such instances of diversion then it amounts to the violation of the law,” Atheeq pointed out adding that the SCSP/TSP funds cannot be diverted for generic schemes unless the scheme/project meets the criteria.

When asked under what provision SCSP/TSP funds are being diverted to implement guarantee schemes, he said: “Section 7(C) of the SCSP/TSP Act permits the government to utilise these grants to provide beneficiary-oriented schemes to SC and ST. If a similar scheme is also given for the general population.”

“The government does not divert the funds. It is being effectively used. The expenditure levels are as high as 95 percent and the remaining five percent gets carried forward. People are assuming that SCSP/TSP funds are being diverted but it is not,” Atheeq said denying the allegations of diverting SCSP/TSP funds.

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‘Advised the CM’

Chief Minister’s Financial Advisor and MLA Basavaraj Rayreddy, known for his criticism of the state government, advised the chief minister not to spend SCSP/TSP grants on infrastructure works but instead to roll out individual benefiting schemes.

“It is true that several elected members have been expressing concerns over utilising the SCSP/TSP grants for the generic schemes for the past several years. These funds have to be utilised only for the SC/ST welfare and not for the common schemes,” Rayreddy told South First.

“I advise the chief minister to spend SCSP/TSP grants by rolling out individual benefiting schemes such as education, health and employment for the SC/ST. It should not be utilised for infrastructure such as roads, bridges and canal work.”

“These infrastructure works will only benefit politicians, bureaucrats and contractors, not the real beneficiaries. There is also a need for greater scrutiny and oversight to ensure these funds are used for their intended purposes.

When the South First contacted the Social Welfare Minister Dr HC Mahadevappa for comment, he was unavailable.

(Edited by Muhammed Fazil)

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