Is Tamil Nadu diverting money set aside for Dalits to fund its new women’s rights grant scheme?

TN government refuted the allegation even as the National Commission for Scheduled Castes has sought an explanation on the matter.

ByLaasya Shekhar

Published Jul 31, 2023 | 3:21 PMUpdatedJul 31, 2023 | 4:12 PM

The Tamil Nadu women's rights grant scheme registrations began across the state on Monday, 24 July. (Laasya Shekhar/South First)

The Tamil Nadu government, on Sunday, 30 July, refuted allegations that the funds allocated for the Scheduled Castes under the Special Central Assistance to Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan (SCA to SCSP) are being diverted towards the proposed women’s rights grant scheme — Kalaignar Magalir Urimai Thogai Thittam. 

The rebuttal comes after the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) sought an explanation from the Tamil Nadu government on 27 July, based on a complaint by E Anbuventhan, general secretary, Tamil Nadu, Indian Republic Party. 

Notice from NCSC. (Supplied)

Notice from NCSC. (Supplied)

Speaking to South First, Finance Secretary T Udhayachandran said, “We are issuing a detailed rebuttal by tomorrow.” 

Demanding a response from the Tamil Nadu government in 15 days, the NCSC, in its notice, said that it would exercise the powers of civil courts if the government fails to respond within the stipulated time. 

The petition submitted by Anbuventhan stated that the diversion of funds from the SCA to SCSP, to the women’s rights grant scheme is against the Union government rules. SCA to SCSP is specifically meant to empower people from Dalit communities in development and infrastructure projects. 

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The schemes

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

Fulfilling the DMK party’s electoral promise, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu MK Stalin announced the implementation of the women’s rights grant scheme from 15 September. 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 are being set-up across the state to register all eligible women.

The entitlement of ₹12,000 per annum is meant to improve the livelihood of the women, says the government order on the women’s rights grant scheme, issued by Darez Ahamed, Secretary, Special Programme Implementation Department. The scheme has been devised to benefit about a crore beneficiaries. 

Anbuventhan’s complaint is based on the government order that mentioned the expenditure for the scheme shall be met from the funds allocated under Women’s Welfare and Special Component Plan for SCs in the budget estimates of 2023-24. The Tamil Nadu government ordered administrative and financial sanction to the tune of ₹7,000 crore for the financial year 2023-24 for the scheme.

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Why is SCSP important? 

In the past 10 years, both the AIADMK and DMK governments have diverted the SC-ST funds to implement other generic schemes, such as free colour television scheme, free bicycle scheme, and to create Periyar Memorial Equality Villages, even though there is a dire need to use the funds on the true beneficiaries — Dalits.

SCA to SCSP can be used to give grants to Dalit scholars, to lease agricultural lands, to initiate cooperate farming, start business, pay salaries for 2,500 Dalit panchayat presidents, and to develop Adi Dravida schools.

“The Tamil Nadu government can use the funds to improve the socio-economic progress of the Dalit community. Tamil Nadu has 26 percent of Dalits, of which 80 percent are below the poverty line. As many as 87 percent of the Dalits in the state are landless,” Dalit rights activist Shalin Maria Lawrence told South First.

Both the state government and Union government should allocate a percentage of the annual budgets in the SCA to SCP, say activists. The Centre gives SCA to SCP to state governments based on the percentage of Dalits in states.

“Tamil Nadu government never initiated SCSP to the Dalits in the state and, worse, it has been diverting the funds allocated by the Union government toward other schemes,” said Shalin Maria Lawrence.

It is worth noting that Telangana has allocated SCSP from their state budget by rolling out the Telangana Dalit Bandhu Scheme in 2015.

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