Alleged redirection of SCSP funds raises concerns about Dalit welfare in Tamil Nadu

Despite issuing a clarification, the Tamil Nadu government continues to face criticism on misuse of Dalit funds on its women's rights scheme.

ByLaasya Shekhar

Published Aug 03, 2023 | 8:00 AMUpdatedAug 03, 2023 | 8:00 AM

RPI member CK Tamilarasan raised concerns about the Tamil Nadu government's alleged diversion of funds designated for Dalit welfare. (Representational image/Creative Commons)

CK Tamilarasan, a four-time MLA and a member of the Republican Party of India (RPI), has voiced concerns about the Tamil Nadu government’s utilisation of funds designated for Dalit welfare. 

He has condemned the alleged diversion of funds from the Special Central Assistance to the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (SCA to SCSP) to the state government’s newly launched women’s rights grant scheme.

At a press conference organised by the RPI in Chennai on Wednesday, 2 August, Tamilarasan highlighted the lack of attention to Dalit students’ scholarships over the past four years.

“[Chief Minister] MK Stalin, who was vocal about the issue as an Opposition leader, is silent now,” he said.

SCA to SCSP is a centrally-sponsored scheme for the development of SCs living below the poverty line.

“The main objective of the scheme is to increase the income of the target population by way of various income-generating schemes, skill development and infrastructure development,” state the guidelines by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.

Related: Is Tamil Nadu diverting money meant for Dalits for its new scheme?

The government clarification

The press conference was arranged following the Tamil Nadu government’s response to allegations of misusing SCSP funds.

A press release from the secretary of the SC/ST Welfare Department, issued on Monday, said that the state government’s accounting pattern had been misunderstood. 

The release emphasised that funds allocated for the SC/ST community in various government schemes, including the women’s rights grant scheme, were listed separately to ensure they were utilised exclusively for their intended purposes.

This followed the accounting pattern set by the Union government, the released said, which designates funds for schemes like the Indira Gandhi Old Age Pension Scheme and the Pradhan Mantri Housing Scheme in separate listings.

“There is no diversion of funds. A misunderstanding of the accounting is the reason behind the allegations. Funds are earmarked to use only for SC and ST individuals and not on anyone else,” it stated. 

Out of the ₹7,000 crore needed for the women’s rights grant scheme, ₹1,540 crore is earmarked for SC and ST individuals, according to the release. 

Fulfilling the DMK party’s electoral promise, Chief Minister Stalin has announced the implementation of the women’s rights grant scheme from 15 September.

Under the scheme, the Tamil Nadu government will provide ₹1,000 every month to women whose family income is less than ₹2.5 lakh a year, including widows. Camps have been set up across the state to register all eligible women.

Related: Water tanks, exclusive schemes — and the othering of Dalits in TN

Unanswered questions

Despite the government’s response, Dalit activists remain unconvinced.

Their concerns stem from a mention in the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) 2016 report that SCSP funds should be non-divertible.

CK Tamilarasan asked why funds from a special scheme like the SCSP should be diverted to generic schemes when funds from generic schemes on education are not adequately utilised for Dalits in Adi Dravidar schools.

Uncertainties surrounding the matter can only be resolved with a specific response from the state government addressing the following questions, he said:

  • Does the government already possess data on Dalits eligible for the women’s rights grant scheme, considering the volunteers did not collect community certificates during the registration process?
  • Can the state government provide a list of specific names of generic schemes in Tamil Nadu where a portion of the funds is allocated to benefit Dalits, as highlighted in the release?
  • What is the state government’s response to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) report from 2016, which emphasizes the non-divertibility of SCSP funds?
  • Can the government provide a comprehensive report detailing the expenditure of SCSP funds over the past decade?

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