February 05, 2023

Budget Represents Loot Kaal Not Amrit Kaal: AARM

THE Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch states that for the adivasi communities across India the budget 2023-24 represents loot kaal not amrit kaal. According to official guidelines, the budgetary allocations for adivasi development under the Tribal Special Scheme (TSS) earlier known as Tribal Special Plan (TSP) should be proportionate to the adivasi population which, even going by the 2011 census is 8.6 per cent of the total population. Accordingly, budgetary allocations for adivasis should be 8.6 per cent of total budgetary expenditure. But in this budget the total allocations in the TSS as reflected in annexures 10B in the budget is only 2.7 per cent. This shows that even though in nominal terms there is an increase over last year’s allocations, it is far below what should have been allocated.

What is really shocking and unacceptable is that even this inadequate allocation supposedly made for the “welfare of Scheduled Tribes” is being used not for adivasis but for general projects of the government. The budget statement 10B reflects this loot of funds meant for STs. For example, the largest increase in allocations is in the ministry of road transport and highways from Rs 6,395 crores rupees to Rs 23,375 crores that is an increase of a whopping Rs 16,960 crores. Are these highways and four lane roads meant for tribals or for facilitating the loot of mineral resources from adivasi areas? What a fraud it is to claim that this is for tribals and to inflate the allocation by almost Rs 17,000 crores for projects which are of little direct benefit for tribals. Yet another fraud is seen in the allocations for higher education. While the tribal universities in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana get an allocation of just one crore rupees each, support to IITs is Rs 270 crores – how many ST students are there in IITs? Not even one per cent. Then why this allocation under 10B? Another example is two allocations under IT for a “modified scheme to set up compound semi- conductor facilities in India” for which allocations of around Rs 221 crore are made. How is such a project included in allocations for STs? There are many other such examples.

The AARM strongly condemns this misuse and fraud of funds supposedly allocated for “ST Welfare”. It is the ministry of tribal affairs which is supposed to monitor the funds allocated by all ministries for tribal welfare under the TSS (Tribal Special Scheme). It has utterly failed to do so and is answerable to the millions of tribals whose interests it is supposed to represent.

The budget has cut down on allocations essential for tribal welfare. For example, the overall cut in allocations for MNREGA by 33 per cent will badly hit tribals for whom, in the absence of alternative employment, it is a lifeline. The allocation mentioned in the TSS of just over Rs 7000 crores for the employment of STs in MNREGA implies a reduction of Rs 4000 crores. This will mean widespread distress to tribal communities especially tribal women. Similarly it is indeed a most cruel step, of the government to cut overall food subsidies by 31 per cent. It is recognised that tribal communities across India are among the most malnourished sections of the population yet even the food subsidy allocations in the TSS show a cut of over Rs 3,300 crores. The inclusion of all ST households in the Antodaya category and restoration of 10 kgs per individual is an urgent requirement which has been negated by the budget. A high percentage of adivasi kisans have been denied the benefit of an annual grant of Rs 6000 
from the PM-Kisan scheme. Instead of rectifying this injustice, the budget cuts down on the funds available two years ago, from Rs 6,384 crores in 2021-2022 to just Rs 5,196 crores in this year’s budget. There is no mention of the allocations to ensure minimum support price for minor forest produce. This has to be further studied. Yet the allocation for fertilizers is shown as Rs 7,699 crores! It is most unlikely that this allocation is being used by STs. The finance minister declared Shri Anna a project for millets. It is in tribal areas where traditional millets are grown. Yet there is no mention of any allocation for this project in the TSS.

The finance minister declared that Sickle Cell Anemia Mission will be set up to monitor seven crore people in tribal areas. But there is no allocation for this in the budget. Shamefully when the budget on health infrastructure in adivasi areas requires a huge investment, this budget actually reduces the allocation for health .

She also declared the setting up of a Mission for Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups with an allocation of Rs 15,000 crores over the next three years. But there is zero allocation in this year’s budget. Why cheat the most vulnerable sections with grand announcements but no funds? 

In the entire budget of TSS there are only three increases of allocations in schemes which could benefit adivasis. The drinking water scheme of Jal Jeevan has an increase of Rs 1500 crores in the TSS. The PM Awas Yojana has an increase of around Rs 6000 crores. The Eklavya Residential Model School project has an increase of Rs 3,941 crores rupees. It is essential to monitor the progress of these projects in adivasi areas to ensure that the funds are used to build houses for adivasis, to ensure drinking water to their homes and to ensure the actual functioning of the ERMS which so far have been very poor because of lack of funds.

The budget allocations for adivasis are highly inadequate and misused for general projects. It is a fraud on adivasis. The ministry of tribal affairs has utterly failed to fulfill its mandate to monitor the expenditures in the name of ST welfare. On the other hand, taxes on the very rich have actually been reduced. India is a country which has the most obscene inequalities. This budget protects the interests of the rich while denying the poor their basic right to a fair share in national resources. The AARM calls for protest actions against the budget by all its units.