India

Modi govt using Dalits’ money for its own election campaign

It is an irony that the Dalits and tribal people are still struggling for their rights on the ground and instead of rectifying the system the money is being spent on advertisements and conferences

Bhasha Singh

The Narendra Modi government at the Centre announced various big schemes for Dalits and tribals but they are not getting the benefits of these schemes. The government instead has been using the funds allocated under the name of these schemes, for its own publicity. Due to this, the Dalits and tribals are unhappy with the government.

The hub (SC-ST Hub) created for the Dalits-tribals was formed in 2016. A fund of ₹490 crore was allocated to this hub to spend till 2020. According to the data received from the Ministry, only about ₹72 crore has been spent so far. According to sources, out of this only ₹7-8 crore would have reached the Dalit and tribal entrepreneurs. For this year i.e. 2018-19, there is a budgetary provision for spending ₹93.8 crore under this hub, out of which only ₹26 crore has been spent. The much-publicised scheme, ‘Standup India’, introduced for Dalits and women entrepreneurs, has achieved only 6% of its target. The plans to spend this money are hurriedly being made because the 2019 Lok Sabha elections are drawing close and the much publicised scheme didn’t achieve its goal.

The government has now taken another path for promoting and publicising itself. In the first fortnight of November, the central government has decided to spend 13 crores on advertisements for the promotion of the SC-ST Hub. According to this decision, the advertisements promoting SC-ST hub will be placed in many places within Delhi, from bus stands to metro stations. In December, a grand conference in Patna and some 6-7 programmes in association with FICCI and CII have been approved. That again means a lot of money. Giriraj Singh is the minister for micro, small and medium enterprises  and he belongs to Bihar. Hence, this conference too has vested political interests.

It is important to note here that according to the purchase policy of the Central Government, it is mandatory for the MSME Ministry to buy 4% of its total purchase from the Dalit and tribal entrepreneurs, but till now this purchase has only reached up to 0.39%

It is an irony that the Dalits and tribal people are still struggling for their rights on the ground and instead of rectifying the system the money is being spent on advertisements and conferences.

From October 2016, 28 conclaves have been organised across the country for the promotion of SC-ST hubs launched under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME). On an average more than 20 lakhs were spent on each of this conclave. Out of these five star conferences, about 40-40 lakh of rupees were spent in the last year in the Nagpur conference and in this year's Bhubaneswar conference. The people who participated in these conferences told National Herald that their purpose was solely to reap political advantage, the Dalits and tribal entrepreneurs got the least benefit. Jhansi Gaddam of Dalit Mahila Shakti, who has been working for a long time with Dalit women and Dalit women entrepreneurs in Hyderabad, said that "an open loot has been taking place in all these schemes running in the name of Dalit entrepreneurs. There is no structural framework to provide the benefits of these schemes to the people on ground so that the Dalits could get loans and the sale of their product could be promoted.”

All the focus remains on posters and conferences promoting PM Modi’s face. It is very difficult to survive for the Dalit entrepreneurs today because the dominant castes have a strong influence over the government. This crises is being faced by not only Jhansi but also the Dalits who run 59.7 lakh businesses. Dalit thinker Chandrabhan Prasad, who has long been working for the rights of Dalit entrepreneurs, says, "Sangha-BJP are shamelessly spending the money allocated to the Dalits for the propagation of their Hindu ideology. The Dalits are not getting money for their businesses, even the contracts for these kind of conferences are being given to the non-Dalits only.”

There is another game going on

The contract to execute the SC-ST Hub has also been entrusted to a multinational Consultancy Company KPMG. It is being given ₹46 lakhs every month. For the next three years, this firm will be given ₹15 to 18 crores rupees in form of fees. Former UGC chairman and economist SK Thorat said if the central government had entrusted this task to any Indian organisation, the money would have reached the Dalits. The money would not have been wasted like this on conventions-private parties, meetings and advertisements. It is important to note here that according to the purchase policy of the Central Government, it is mandatory for the MSME Ministry to buy 4% of its total purchase from the Dalit and tribal entrepreneurs, but till now this purchase has reached only up to 0.39%.

Bina Pallikal of the Dalit Economic Movement told National Herald that there is a lot of corruption in budgetary allocation. In its election manifesto during the 2014 General election, the BJP had promised to implement a special component plan (16.6% budgetary allocation) for the Dalits, but in the last four years, the government has suppressed the economic rights of Dalits. From 2014 to 2018, there was only an allocation of 7.59% for the Dalits, which is 9% less than 16.6%. This is the reason why Dalits are under the impression that during the Modi regime, not only their constitutional rights are being curbed but their economic rights are also being curtailed.

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