State to tweak SC/ST sub-plan to improve fund spend

State to tweak SC/ST sub-plan to improve fund spend

Priyank Kharge, Minister, Social Welfare

The state government is considering some tweaks in the implementation of a pioneering law that mandates spending a portion of the budget on the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

This is in response to concerns that fund utilisation under the Karnataka Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan and Tribal Sub-Plan (Planning, Allocation and Utilization of Financial Resources) Act, 2013, was unsatisfactory.

Under the sub-plans, 17.15% and 6.95% of the total budget allocation is set aside for SC and ST welfare respectively. Funds are allocated to various departments for spending.

Social Welfare Minister Priyank Kharge said departments lacked direction on how they could spend the funds effectively. “Everybody agreed that we can devise one flagship programme in each department on which they can spend the funds,” said Kharge, who has been reviewing his department the past few days.

Accordingly, the Social Welfare department will draw up specific SC/ST programmes in consultation with other departments. “On rural water supply, for example, we can have a big project to ensure hamlets get drinking water. In the Energy department, we can look at a programme where a village and make it entirely solar-powered. Also, a good time is lost because there’s no coordination between the RDPR, Public Works and Irrigation departments on building roads. So, we are considering having the Public Works or the RDPR department to build roads to connect hamlets with highways. Like that, we will come up with flagship programmes in each department based on its expertise,” Kharge explained.  

In 2017-18, a total of Rs 27,703 crore was allocated across 37 departments under the SC and ST sub-plans. While expenditure data is yet to be finalized, the departments of higher education, youth empowerment, skill development and labour fared poorly. For instance, these departments managed to spend only 3-6% of the allocated funds till the fag end of the fiscal year. “That’s because nobody gave these departments a proper plan,” Kharge said.

Karnataka was the second Indian state after Andhra Pradesh to enact the sub-plans law, which also allows for officers to be penalized if they fail to ensure utilization of funds.

Kharge said some old schemes will be discarded or strengthened. “We have a research institute that imparts training in stitching that needs to end. Also, we have to strengthen the Swayam Udyog scheme and the Karnataka Leather Industries Development Corporation (Lidkar).”