The plight of its Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is India’s shame. The most oppressed sections of our society remain the most neglected and discriminated people. While the oppression is inextricably linked to the inhumane caste system, the perpetuation of oppression occurs by means of socio-economic realities.
When it comes to human development, Kerala is a unique success story among Indian states. This holds true to a large extent even for the historically oppressed sections like Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Compared to the rest of India, social welfare indicators of Kerala’s SCs and STs are higher than the national indicators. In fact, the indicators of quality of life of Scheduled Castes in Kerala is higher than that of the general quality of life indicators of several other Indian states. But within the state, the economic status of the Scheduled Castes lags behind the General Category. Social indicators of the Schedule Tribes also trail behind that of the General Category. For a state striving for the inclusive development of all its people, this is a challenge. The Left Democratic Front government in Kerala is mindful of this challenge, and is committed to resolve this disparity. The 2017 budget presented by the Finance Minister Dr. T. M. Thomas Isaac in the state assembly is an affirmation of the government’s commitment to bring about a change. It has laid out a concrete action plan for the inclusive development of the SC and ST communities.
A Fair Share
Special Component Plan (SCP) and the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) were set up to ensure channelling of Plan funds for the development of the SCs and STs in accordance with the proportion of these communities in the total population. But in reality the central and most state governments have not made these allocations in proportion to their population. The LDF government of Kerala strongly believes that any plan for an inclusive development can only happen with a fair allocation of the resources. The 2017 budget allocation for the SCs and STs is higher than the allocation in any other Indian state.
Dr. Isaac said in his budget speech, “Rs. 26.00 billion for SCP and Rs. 7.51 billion for TSP are earmarked. 9.81% of total outlay is being earmarked for SC population, who comprise 9.10% of total population. 2.83% is earmarked for STs who form 1.45% of the population. Rs. 1.88 billion for Scheduled Castes and Rs. 3.66 billion for Scheduled Tribe has been allocated in excess of the proportionate normative share. This allocation is higher than that of any other State in India.”
Kerala’s revolutionary people’s planning experiment gives local communities a greater control over their lives by entrusting the power of decision-making on developmental programmes with the local governments. The budget of 2017–18 further advances this model with a greater downwards allocation of funds through the Local Self Government Institutions, and thereby enabling Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to actively participate in the formulation of different schemes for themselves, according to their own aspirations. An amount of Rs. 11.72 billion out of Rs. 26.00 billion under SCP and Rs. 1.76 billion out of Rs. 7.51 billion under TSP will be expended this way. The decisions taken by the Oorukootam — the neighbourhood groups of tribal people, in TSP cannot be superseded by the Panchayat.
Improving the housing condition is an important measure in the developmental efforts for marginalised communities. The budget has allocated Rs. 1.80 billion for the purchase of land and Rs. 5.00 billion for the construction of house for the Scheduled Castes under the SCP. For the Scheduled Tribes, it has allocated Rs. 1.15 billion for housing, and Rs. 0.50 billion for the rehabilitation of landless tribals.
The Kerala story makes the case for a sound argument that education is a significant factor in social transformation. It increases economic opportunity for the beneficiaries. Improving education facilities for SCs and STs is a priority for the LDF government, which is striving to better the lives of the marginalised. Rs. 4.59 billion under SCP and Rs.1.22 billion under TSP, has been provided for educational schemes. And in addition to this, another Rs. 2.86 billion has been provided under SCP for Post-matric Scholarship of Central Government. In the coming years, LDF government will also undertake a major renovation of model residential schools, post-matric and pre-matric hostels through KIIFB. As a part of its effort to improve access to good education among tribal population, LDF government has decided to build schools deep in the tribal areas. Edamalakkudy, near Munnar, the first tribal panchayat in Kerala will soon have a school. Also, a special scheme targeting school drop-outs among tribal children will be instituted under the Saksharatha (Literacy) Mission.
The 2017 budget also launched a social security scheme called Valsalyanidhi, for the girls belonging to the Scheduled Castes. This scheme ensures all insurance coverage such as birth, health care, education etc. and final assured amount of Rs. 0.10 million will be given either on completion of 10th standard or on attaining the age of 18.
A development that is not inclusive is no way for development. The Left Democratic Government strongly believes that only a people’s alternative can ensure the well-being of all the people in the state.