Kerala is unique among Indian states with its high levels of human development. Its Human Development Index is comparable to that of developed nations. But this was not always the case and at the onset of its journey Kerala was very much like any other province in the global south. sixty years of its existence is an unparalleled story of a people’s relentless pursuit of a development model that works for everyone. Independence did not extinguish the spirit of anti-colonial struggle in the state and the post-independence era was a time of radical changes. While the rest of the country slumbered into torpor, the social relations in the state were getting rewritten. An era of progress, both social and economical, lifted the majority of the state from their abject conditions of existence. This holds true to an extent even for the historically oppressed sections of the Indian society, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
Compared to the rest of India, social welfare indicators of SCs and STs in Kerala are higher. It is even true that the indicator on quality of life of Scheduled Castes in Kerala is higher than that of the general quality of life indicator of north Indian states. These achievements are not accidental. Inclusivity in the policies pursued by the Left Governments in Kerala was always a key determinant that caused this change. But despite of all the good work and good will, our efforts have fallen short of creating a truly inclusive story. Lest we forget that the economic status of the Scheduled Castes lags behind the general category in the State. The social indicators. of the Schedule Tribes are also below the general standards. While the progress made in comparison to the national standards must be acknowledged, this can be no reason for respite.
The plight of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes is India’s shame. The inhuman caste system is one of the most systemic oppressions in human history. It is a bane that continues to morally paralyze us and a social evil that has proved its resilience with its ability to adapt to new conditions of oppression. The condemnation of it can be done in many ways and with many words, but its abolition can only happen by attacking the conditions that perpetuate it and in our times the question of caste is very much a part of the class question.
The Left Democratic government is determined to set this right. This month our Government will complete one year in governance, and the work of the last one year will be a testimony to our commitment to bring about this change. The 2017 budget makes it clear that we are moving in that direction. Presented by Finance Minister in the state assembly, it was unlike any of the central or state budgets anywhere in the country.
A fair share
The Special Component Plan (SCP) and the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) were set up to ensure channeling of Plan funds for the development of SCs and STs in accordance with the proportion of these communities in the total population. But in reality the central government and most state governments have not yet made these allocations in proportion to their population. The LDF government in Kerala strongly believes that any plan for inclusive development can only happen with a fair allocation of the resources. This belief made the 2017 budget have an allocation for SCs and STs which was higher than that of any other Indian state.
“Rs. 2600 Crore (26 Billion) for SCP and Rs. 751 Crore (7.51 Billion) for TSP are earmarked. 9.81% of total outlay is being earmarked for SC population, who comprise 9.1% of total population. 2.83% is earmarked for STs who form 1.45% of the population. Rs. 188 Crore (1.88 Billion) for Scheduled Castes and Rs. 366 Crore (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.”
LDF government’s universal housing mission, LIFE, is building houses across the state for the underprivileged members of our society. The budget has allocated Rs. 1.80 Billion for the purchase of land and Rs. 5.00 Billion for the construction of houses 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. A sum of Rs. 1.71 Billion has been allocated to build 33168 spill-over houses for the Scheduled Tribes, of which 4158 houses have already been completed. Of the 16363 spill-over houses for the Scheduled Castes 456 has been completed. A sum of Rs. 4.40 Billion was allocated for rehabilitating the landless and homeless. The government had granted permission and financial assistance houses. 3000 among them had already bought land for it and houses for 976 of them have been completed. Rs.1.07 Billion was allocated to increase the monetary support to 300000 for people part of the Indira Awas Yojana scheme. Financial assistance has been granted for the maintenance of 7167 houses. Rs. 63 Million has been granted to build houses, to provide drinking water and to set up a community hall in Alakkode rehabilitation area. Rs. 607.5 Million has been granted for the rehabilitation works in Aralam Farm in Kannur.
A Comprehensive Health Care Scheme of the government will cover the expenses of medical treatment of all tribal families, along with providing them complete healthcare. Support of Rs. 460 Million was allocated to meet the medical expenses of 23073 beneficiaries. Through the Janani Janmaraksha Scheme Rs. 55.8 Million has been spent to provide nutritious food for 11850 pregnant and breastfeeding tribal women. Rs. 250 Million was spent on providing food for 83103 Scheduled Tribe families during the monsoon seasons. The Valsalyanidhi social security scheme ensures an all insurance coverage and final assured amount of Rs. 100000 which will be given either on completion of 10th standard or on attaining the age of 18.
A comprehensive development plan is being implemented in Edamalakuddy, the sole tribal village panchayat in Kerala. Located deep inside the forest, this place has known no development. Project LIFE and other missions of the Government are changing the lives in Edamalakuddy.
Education plays a radical transformative role in our societies. It increases economic opportunity for the beneficiaries and creates social mobility. One year of LDF government has been a period of change for the underprivileged in Kerala. Government undertook many efforts to improve the educational facilities available for the SCs and STs in the State.
Budgetary allocation of Rs. 4.59 Billion under SCP and Rs.1.22 Billion under TSP were made, for educational purposes. Educational benefits available for students from SC/ST/OEC saw a massive increase in the range of 25% to 100%. LDF government cleared educational arrears of 140000 SC/ST/OEC students in the state. Around 600000 Scheduled Tribe students received educational support in this period. In this period developmental initiatives in education include implementation of smart schools in all model residential schools, providing of laptops for 1537 professionals students and modernization of pre-metric hostels.
The Gothrasaradhi Project was initiated to provide free transportation facilities to the tribal students to reach their schools. The Department of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes has allocated Rs. 66.7 Million to meet the transportation expenses of 12831 students. Through the Gothrabandhu Scheme teachers have been engaged as mentors in 241 government and aided schools in Wayanad for the benefit of tribal students in primary classes. KIIFB is in the process of developing a Rs. 1.55 Billion project of three Model residential schools, one Sports residential school and working women hostels.
The LDF Government’s efforts to improve the lives of SC/ST/OEC communities do not end with providing housing, education and healthcare. Creating opportunities is integral to building the lives of the underprivileged. 3944 members from Scheduled Castes got jobs in this period through various Governmental schemes. Debt relief to the tune of Rs. 890 Million was provided to the Scheduled Caste families of the State. Another debt relief plan of Rs. 61 Million was allocated to write off debts of up to Rs. 100000 of Scheduled Tribe families. 10523 members from these communities received support to meet their wedding expenses.
Rs. 170 Million scheme to target the most backward members among SC/ST/OEC communities is also being implemented. Career development centres and employability centres have become operational. Startups are being planned for providing jobs to tribal youths.
The last year was also a time to focus on the development of skills in the State’s workforce.
Ensuring that the next generation of SCs/STs/OECs have the necessary skills to compete in the job market was a priority for the government. Through KIIFB the Government is working to elevate 10 ITIs to international standards. SC/ST/OEC youths rely primarily on ITIs to make an entry in to the job market. This is precisely why our government has given special care to the modernization of ITIs, and in upgrading the courses available in them. In eighty ITIs across the state 26400 trainees receive nutritional breakfasts. Mid-day meals are also given to trainees in the ITIs of Aryanad, Nilambur and Attapadi, where most of the Students are from backward classes.