“Budget a big joke on a huge chunk of population”, says Dalit rights activist Ashok Bharti

Though the combined share of Dalits, SCs, STs, backward classes and minorities in country’s population is no less than 84.5%, only 4.77% of the total Budget has been set aside for them

Dalit activist Ashok Bharti (Twitter)
Dalit activist Ashok Bharti (Twitter)

Abid Shah

The Union Budget 2019-20 is being seen as woefully deficient and even highly discriminatory because of meager allocations made for predominantly poor, needy and deserving sections among Dalits, or Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, backward classes and minorities.

Though the combined share of these sections in country’s population is no less than 84.5 per cent, the Budget presented by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on last Friday, July 5, sets aside only 4.77 per cent of the total expenditure for these sections. It is so when the overall Budget is as big as ₹27.86 lakh crore.

This is what has been concluded in a study of the latest Central Government’s Budget undertaken by a team of Dalit and Bahujan (actual majority) rights activists led by Ashok Bharti under the aegis of NACDAOR, or National Confederation of Dalit and Adivasi Organisations.

“Budget a big joke on a huge chunk of population”, says Dalit rights activist Ashok Bharti

After releasing the report based on in-depth study of the latest Budget on Monday, July 8, Bharti said that a “highly selective approach” followed through the Budgets in the recent past to the detriment of poorer sections of the society continued in this Budget too.

He remarked, “The pathetically low socioeconomic conditions of large sections of people falling into distinct and easily identifiable categories are conveniently ignored in budgets brought over the years. And this time it’s no exception. The result is that 95.23 per cent of allocations have been marked for only 15.5 percent of population falling into general category where majority of people are a lot better off than their counterparts in historically disadvantaged sections that were selected for the study vis-à-vis others who happen to be numerically far small.”

Often the allocations made by the Finance Minister for underprivileged social categories are spread over to the Ministries and Departments like Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ministry of Minority Affairs and Commissions, or institutions, run by these ministries meant for Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes, Backward Castes and Minorities. And, thus, Bharti points out that a good part of the Budget given for socially and economically less equal categories will be spent on running the relevant Ministries and Commissions and meeting the salary bills of their employees while only the remaining part can be expected to benefit a few among a huge crowd of people who find themselves to be left in the cold because of long standing social and ethnic issues that have also been giving way to prejudices.

He says that the Government does give scholarships and assistance in fields like research both within the country and abroad to poorer sections like Dalits and minorities but these are too few and far to make a dent on educational, cultural and social backwardness of these numerically far huge sections than what is the case with those in the general category. Besides this, there are grants in several ministries for uplifting poorer social groups but the total quantum of these allocations stop at less than a paltry five per cent of the total Budget of the country.

Of this 2.7 percent has been allocated for Scheduled Castes, 1.79 percent for Scheduled Tribes, 0.17 per cent for minorities and 0.06 per cent for backward and OBCs, or other backward castes. The total allocation for all the four categories is 4.77 per cent of the total Budget, as per Bharti. He juxtaposes this with the population of Scheduled Castes as per 2011 census at 15.6 percent, Scheduled Tribes 6.9 per cent, minorities 19 per cent -- including 13.4 per cent Muslims, besides backward castes and OBCs 43 per cent to point out the inadequacies of the allocations made in the Budget for the majority among the populace that comes to 84.5 per cent.

Calling it a “big joke on a huge part of the population”, Bharti who is an engineer-turned-activist also points out that the first Budget in the second term of the Government has been euphemistically captioned as “The Budget of New India”. And according to him, this boils down to saying that earlier Budgets were of an ancient times. Thus, the Budget at hand aims at laying the foundations of new India. This task set upon itself by the Budget and its authors this time remains far from being met, he remarks in disgust.

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