Undoubtedly these are testing times for the underprivileged and marginalized in India. The scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes are facing caste based repression across the nation, owing to centuries old prejudices. The discriminations they undergo can be witnessed in universities, workspaces and streets even in this 21st century. Poverty, unemployment, resource crunch, landlessness and educational backwardness are distancing them from mainstream society. The Left Democratic Front has a thorough understanding of this predicament and has a clear perspective capable enough to eradicate this social evil, to bring the marginalized to the mainstream society.
Compared to the rest of India, the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes in Kerala enjoy a better social position. However, the government has a clear understanding that complacency would not contribute to social progress. It is bearing this in mind that the LDF had prepared its election manifesto, and the LDF government in office is dedicated to implement the same, following the footsteps of the previous LDF governments. The LDF government’s vision is a people alternative, an alternative that caters to the hopes and aspirations of all sections of our society. In short, inclusivity is integral to the government’s developmental agenda. The various schemes envisaged by the LDF government, for the benefit of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes reflect this vision.
Quality Education for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
The Babu Vijayanath Commission had recommended an increase in educational benefits, which the students pursuing pre-matric and post-matric courses are entitled to receive. This was in view of the rising expenditure of basic and higher education needs and the standard of living indices. The Department of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Development has decided to bring in a 50% increment in the same.
The Govt. Medical College in Palakkad, established for the health care and educational needs of the underprivileged and marginalized, has been granted a sum of 3100 million. Underprivileged students pursuing B.Tech, M.Tech, MCA, MBBS, BDS, BAMS, BHMS, BCA, MCA and Diploma Courses in Polytechnics will be provided with laptops. 889 students who have secured A+ in SSLC and Plus-Two examinations have been given gold medals.
The Department of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Development has granted permission to introduce a new course, “Electrician Trade Course” in ITI, V.R.Puram in Thrissur district. A sum of Rs. 0.8 million and 3.9 million has been allocated for recurring and non-recurring expenditures respectively. 4 other Industrial Training Institutes have started offering new courses. A scheme to provide mid day meals for students of 44 ITIs has also been initiated.
The Gothrasaradhi Project, which was initiated to provide free transportation facilities to the tribal students to reach schools, was at a standstill for a while. The Department of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes has allocated Rs. 66.7 million for the transportation expenses of 12831 students. Teachers have been engaged as mentors in 241 government and aided schools in Wayanad, for the benefit of tribal students in primary classes. Known as the Gothrabandhu Scheme, it aims to empower the students from communities such as Adiyar, Paniyar, Oorali and Kattunaykkar. 5000 SC students in high schools have already been benefited from a scheme that is in effect to build study rooms in every house, whereas community study rooms will be provided for ST students in high school classes. All hostels under the direct supervision of the department have been modernized. 10 new Model Residential Schools (MRS) will be instituted for the benefit of tribal students, while one sports school will be instituted in Palakkad for tribal students who excel in sports.
Infrastructure Development Through Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB)
The Centre for Research and Education for Social Transformation (CREST), Calicut was launched in 2008, with the support of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Development Department, Govt. of Kerala. The Centre offers programmes that cater to the educational, cultural, and socio-economic mobility of the Scheduled Communities of Kerala. CREST has been granted Rs. 170 million through KIIFB for infrastructure development.
Model Residential Schools (MRS) are being run across Kerala by the SC/ST Residential Education Society, for the benefit of SC/ST students. A couple of schools have been provided with financial assistance through KIIFB, to meet their infrastructure needs. A sum of Rs. 5 million has been allocated for the skill development of tribal students in the Model Residential Schools. The Sports MRS in Palakkad, Girls MRS in Chakkittappara, MRS in Thonnakkal, Peringom, Aralam and Kuttichal have been granted a sum of Rs. 250 million each. A sum of Rs. 50 million has been granted for the Plus Two Hostel of MRS, Kasargod.
97 Pre-Matric and 18 Post-Matric hostels are run across the state to provide accommodation for students from the remotest areas. Pre-Matric Hostels in Kasargode, Achankovil, Nedunkadam and Idamalayar has been allocated with Rs. 250 million each for infrastructure development, while the Pre-Matric Hostel in Thalassery is allocated with Rs. 20 million. Rs. 150 million has been allocated for the development of the Post-Matric Hostels in Aluva, Kozhinjampara, and Kannur. 100 million Rs. has been allocated for the Post-Matric Hostels in Neryamangalam and Kattappana while 80 million Rs. is allocated for the hostel and quarters in Mannanthala. The Boarding Grant for students residing in the subsidised hostels run by approved voluntary organizations has been increased to a sum of Rs. 1000. The Youth Hostel in Palode has been granted an amount of Rs. 50 million.
Rs. 10 million has been granted to the Pre-Examination Training Centre in Kannur. A sum of Rs. 70 million has been granted to Perumala, Vettikkavala, Attipra and Ponnani ITIs. Rs. 1 billion has been allocated to the Vocational Training Centre in Nadukani.
Social Welfare Schemes
Housing and Land Distribution Schemes
A sum of Rs. 17.10 billion has been allocated to build 33168 spill-over houses for the Scheduled Tribes, of which 3565 houses are already completed. Of the 16363 spill-over houses (for the Scheduled Castes), which had been left unfinished by the previous government, 3841 is complete right now. The government had granted permission and financial assistance for the SCs to build 15000 houses. 3000 among them had already bought land. Financial assistance has been granted for the maintenance of 7000 houses, of which the maintenance of 3142 houses has already begun. 25.59 acres of land has been distributed to the landless, spending Rs. 0.556 million. Maintenance work of 200 houses has also been completed. 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. The dispute over additional shares for Indira Awas Yojana has been settled.
Under Forest Rights Act, land distribution has been carried out for the Scheduled Tribes and 50000 beneficiaries will be provided with Record of Rights. As per the Supreme Court Judgement 4500 acres will be distributed again.
Health Care Benefits
The Comprehensive Health Care Scheme of the government will cover the expenses of medical treatment of all tribal families, along with providing complete healthcare. A sum of Rs. 291.1 million has been granted to 14279 persons belonging to the SC category to meet the expenses of better treatment. Rs. 84.2 million has been already distributed for the treatment of 7942 persons belonging to the ST category. A sum of Rs. 7.8 million has been granted for 595 sickle cell anaemia patients. A sum of Rs. 2.4 million has been granted for the benefit of 432 orphan children. Rs. 55.8 million has been spent to provide nutritious food for 11850 pregnant and breast feeding tribal women, through the Janani Janmaraksha Scheme. There is a considerable decrease in child mortality rate among the Scheduled Tribes. The Community Kitchen Scheme has been resumed in Attappadi, to ensure that nutritious food is available to the tribal families.
No time frame had been fixed to submit the applications seeking financial assistance for the wedding expenditure of SC women. The time frame has been fixed as an year, valid from the date of the wedding. Financial assistance of Rs. 50000 each has already been given to 9006 Scheduled Caste and 110 Scheduled Tribe women. 1245 tribal families, facing social stigma due to inter-caste marriage, have been provided with Rs. 50000 each for self-employment. Food grains were distributed to 83103 Scheduled Tribe families during the monsoons. Persons belonging to the SC category will be provided with a sum of Rs. 50000 for travel expenses if they are going abroad for employment.
The Department of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes has been publishing the magazine, “Padavukal” regularly as a quarterly, which features the welfare programmes implemented by the Centre, State and Local Governments. The government has taken a decision to publish the magazine monthly and increased the honorarium of the editor to Rs. 15000 from Rs. 7000. An exhibition cum sales and cultural festival “Gaddhika” was organized in Palakkad and Calicut districts.
The government will continue to dedicate itself to the cause of the marginalized and underprivileged. The coming days will see more of such schemes for the upliftment of the oppressed communities. Grievances and criticisms will be taken care of, and we therefore welcome critical assessments as well as encouragement.