The shameful neglect of SC/STs in Karnataka

The shameful neglect of SC/STs in Karnataka

The callous diversion of funds meant for dalits under the SC/ST Sub-Plan, as in the case of the Commonwealth Games and elsewhere, points to one of the immediate causes of this neglect, though the root cause lies in the history of inhuman discrimination practised since millennia in this country.

Nearer home, it is budget time again in Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).  And time for those, who during the recent elections to BBMP shouted from roof-tops that eradicating poverty and bringing about ‘inclusive growth’ of Bangalore was their top-most priority, etc, to walk the talk.

Right to Information applications by M Venkatesh of the Dalit Bahujan Movement (DBM) have revealed that not only were officials and elected representatives, whose heart supposedly bleeds constantly for the poor, not allotting the 18 per cent (now 22.75 per cent as per their population) required to be allotted for SC/STs under the sub-plan, but they did not use what was allocated; they  diverted large amounts to other programmes, let large amounts lapse and/or did not carry over the lapsed amounts to the next year as legally mandated.

Turning a blind-eye

With much of the government’s idea of development concentrated on building the tallest tower, establishing a space city or constructing signal-free corridors, musical fountains, laser shows, etc, it is obvious that the naked and malnourished children playing with iron rods at construction sites, the school drop-outs picking rags at garbage heaps or sweating it out as domestic helpers, and the slush and squalor in which slum-dwellers live, escape their attention. There cannot be two opinions that most of these marginalised are SC/STs. 

It was due to protests by the DBM that budget allocations under the SC/STs sub-plan were raised from around Rs 50 crore to about Rs 200 crore in BBMP’s budget for 2008-09. It was also DBM which brought to the attention of BBMP a government circular which said that 40 per cent of the 18 per cent had to be spent on education of SC/STs, 40 per cent on their economic empowerment and 20 per cent only on other components, such as civil works.

“Give our children quality education of ICSE and CBSE standard in residential schools for 10 years. We will not ask for any other dole or reservation,” say DBM members. But the very education and economic programmes, which would lead to their genuine empowerment and make them stand on their own feet, do not get the allotment mandated. Civil works — buildings, roads and drains — receive all the attention, which however do precious little for the development of the dalits’ human capabilities.

Thus, as per statistics provided by the chief accounts officer of BBMP, out of the total outlay of Rs 483.20 crore for 2009-10, only Rs 113.18 crore has been utilised. But civil works alone have received Rs 403 crore of which Rs 70.47 have been spent. In comparison, only Rs 80.2 crore have been set apart for educational and economic programmes together, in violation of the 80 per cent norm for them. Of even this, only Rs 42.71 crore have been spent. The unspent amounts have also not been kept in a separate bank account as mandated.

There has been zero expenditure on programmes for setting up crèches for children  playing on sand heaps when their mothers go to earn a living. Is it also so difficult for the BBMP to provide scholarships to the children of pourakarmikas and gang-men so that these children do not become drop-outs, or is it the age-old mind-set of not wanting to see these sections educated that is at work here? There has been very little expenditure on micro-credit programmes and social security programmes for these persons, who are very often in debt and have no support during times of distress.

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