Minority welfare woes: Story of Telangana’s consistently underutilised funds

For the fiscal year 2024-2025, the Telangana government has proposed an allocation of ₹2,262 crore, up from ₹2,194.90 crore in 2023-2024.

ByDeepika Pasham

Published Feb 12, 2024 | 9:00 AMUpdated Feb 12, 2024 | 4:37 PM

Minority welfare woes: Story of Telangana’s consistently underutilised funds

Even as the Telangana government continues to allocate funds to the Minority Welfare Department, there appears to be a noticeable lag in utilising these funds for schemes directly benefitting minority communities — particularly Muslims.

For the fiscal year 2024-25, the Telangana government has proposed an allocation of ₹2,262 crore to the department, up from ₹2,194.90 crore in 2023-24.

However, delving into last year’s allocation sheds light on how funds under certain heads were not effectively utilised.

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Budget allocation over the years

In 2023-24, the Telangana Minority Welfare Department made significant budgetary allocations, with substantial expenditure directed towards religious festivals, Ramzan gifts, Dawat-e-Iftar, and Christmas gifts.

Additionally, allocations for scholarships, employment, and training for minorities represented over 55 percent of the budget, indicating a noteworthy focus on these areas.

Despite the substantial allocation, the total expenditure for minority welfare stood at ₹1,382.77 crore, falling short of the allocated amount of ₹2,194.90 crore.

This disparity highlights a significant portion of unspent funds, RTI activist Mohammed Abdul Akram revealed to South First.

Certain schemes, like those for Iftar party and gift distribution, saw full utilisation — before and after the Covid-induced pandemic.

In 2020-2021, the utilisation was only ₹25 lakh out of the allocated ₹66 crore, while in 2021- 2022, ₹17.39 crore out of ₹66 crore was utilised.

However, in 2018-2019, ₹68.5 crore was spent on these schemes, more than the ₹66 crore allocation, while in 2022-2023, a decent ₹45.83 crore was spent out of the allocated ₹66 crore.

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Continued underutilisation, with exceptions

The much-talked-about Shaadi Mubarak scheme also saw funds being nearly fully utilised in 2021-2022 — ₹ 298.23 crore was spent from the allocated ₹300 crore, as per RTI.

While in 2022-2023 more than allocated was utilised, ₹445 crore was spent, while ₹300 crore was allocated

Notably, only three primary schemes — Shaadi Mubarak, direct subsidy loans, and overseas scholarships — seem to be effectively benefitting the minority community, while other avenues remain under-utilised.

In the realm of education, the allocation for residential tuition fees was ₹200 crore in 2022-2023, but only ₹79.50 crore was spent.

Similarly, the allocated ₹60 crore maintenance tuition fees by the state government saw only ₹30 crore expenditure.

The pattern of underutilisation persisted in next fiscal year (2023-2024) as well — ₹12.536 crore was utilised of the ₹70.80 crore allocated for maintenance tuition fees, and ₹119.04 crore was utilised of the ₹236 crore allocated for residential tuition fees, as per a reply to an RTI filed by Akram.

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'Minimal transformation'

“Over the past decade, the BRS government consistently allocated a substantial portion of the budget to religious festivals, aiming to garner support from the minority community," Akram told South First.

"However, with the recent change in government in Telangana, there has been a minimal transformation in the Minority Welfare Department within the first two months,” he added.

The overseas scholarships have been gaining momentum over the past few years.

SQ Masood, a legal activist who co-founded ASSEM, told South First, “In overseas scholarships, initial expenses for securing admission into foreign universities are to be borne by the students."

He noted: "Most of the beneficiaries are from the middle class and upper class, and they lobby for scholarships."

Masood added: "In the year 2022-2023, the budget allocation was ₹100 crore and the utilisation was ₹74.23 crore. In 2023-2024, ₹83.837 crore was spent out of an allocated ₹118 crore.”

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Training, employment funds 

Livelihood development schemes, such as the Bank Linked Subsidy Scheme, have also seen minimal utilisation compared to the allocation over the last three years.

The budget allocated was ₹28.31 crore but the expenditure was ₹15 crore in 2021-2022, ₹7.07 crore in 2022-2023, and a mere ₹60 lakh in 2023-2024.

Outlining the issues, ASEEM's report noted that 1.54 lakh applications received in 2015-2016 were taken up only in 2018-2019, and banks were reluctant to provide loans, leaving genuine applicants running pillar to post.

In training and employment, there were once Society for Employment Promotion & Training in Twin Cities (SETWIN) programmes for the youth, but this has been replaced by sewing machine tailoring for women, which has also seen decreasing allocation and expenditure over the years.

Reasons for ineffective fund utilisation include corruption at every step, claimed Akram. “It is corruption at every step. In any beneficiary scheme, the MLA is the one who has to verify and sign the papers to get the funds," he said.

He added, "We expect this Congress government to be transparent. The budget for 2024-2025 has been decreased. However, allocation is not a problem. The expenditure must be fulfilled.”

Highlighting more issues, Masood told South First, “There is staff scarcity or reduced manpower in the Minority Department compared to BC Welfare and SC Welfare Departments. The permanent employees are only 163 in the Minorities Department, as opposed to 2,619 in the BC Welfare Department and 4,191 in the SC Welfare Department."

He explained: "Their tasks of calling for applications, selecting them, and fund disbursement are not being performed on time."

A student named Shaik Aslam highlighted the struggle for fee reimbursement. He shared with South First his ordeal in obtaining a scholarship.

“I am a third-year engineering student at the Marri Laxman Reddy Institute of Technology. I applied for a scholarship while pursuing a diploma in Polytechnic in 2019 and I received half the amount just two days ago, on 8 February. My friends have not received a penny yet," he said.

"I submitted a letter and ran from the Secretariat to the Minority Department. I paid a ₹30,000 fee at the polytechnic college to get my certificates. This is our scholarship situation in Telangana,” added Aslam.

Masood highlighted another crucial battle: The need for a statutory provision so that the pending amount every year does not lapse but is carried forward, like in other departments.

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Editor's note: This report has been updated with corrected data for Shaadi Mubarak scheme. The previous version of the report had mistakenly interchanged data from columns.