Not just roads, Ambedkar Bhavans; give us education

BBMP spends hundreds of crores annually on projects like road widening and flyovers, while allocating very low amounts for education, health, welfare etc. Dalit Bahujan Movement (DBM), a city-based group for SC/ST welfare, has been demanding useful schemes and funds for the community.

Venkatesh M, an activist formerly with  state-level Dalit organisations, formed DBM in 2007 with the specific aim of getting government funding and schemes for SC/STs. It was in late 1970s that the central government initiated separate funding for SC/STs.

Venkatesh M heads the city-based Dalit Bahujan Movement. Pic: Navya P K

Government announced the Special Component Plan (SCP) for SCs and Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) for STs. Under SCP/TSP, all governments should allocate a percentage of their budget for SC/ST welfare. This allocation should be equal to the proportion of SC/STs in that population. For example, 22.75% of Karnataka’s population is SC/STs; hence 22.75% of budgets in the state – including that of BBMP – should be for SC/STs.

Venkatesh, through RTIs, had earlier exposed that BBMP allocated only a pittance under SCP/TSP, and that even the allocated amount was not fully spent. BBMP calls the schemes ‘SC/ST 22.75% programmes’, but the allocation is rarely more than 10% of the budget. Even this amount is rarely spent – there has been zero spending on many schemes.

In this interview with Citizen Matters, Venkatesh talks about BBMP’s schemes and what goes wrong during implementation.

Why is that the schemes are poorly implemented? There is no spending on many of them.

SC/ST people do not know about these schemes. There will be demand only if they know. In 2008, when we demanded higher allocation, we also asked for 1% of it to be used for awareness campaigns. The Planning Commission guidelines on SCP also specifies that governments have to spread awareness on schemes. But BBMP officials said that this could not be done.

We then said that DBM or any other organisation can be given the funds to do this – we could do street plays, wall writings etc in each area. Or BBMP could outsource this work to contractors. But top officials said there was no provision for this; now many schemes are not implemented at all and the allotted money is of no use.

Does BBMP identify beneficiaries or are public supposed to apply?

People are supposed to give the applications themselves. BBMP has no schemes to identify beneficiaries. The kind of schemes we have now are good. The problem is that applicants are asked to produce lot of documents, and made to run around. On giving an application, it takes around two years to get it sanctioned. Working people cannot leave work and go to BBMP office daily to check application status.

In the last 3-4 years, the number of SC/ST schemes has increased, but the percentage of implementation seems lower than before.

Up till 2009-10, BBMP’s SCP/TSP allocation was said to be only 18% of budget. BBMP was supposed to increase the allocation to 22.75% right from 2001, as the state SC/ST population was identified to be 22.75% in the 2001 census.

But there was no increase in the allocation. It was only from 2010-11, after Dalit groups’ protest, that BBMP acknowledged that allocation should be 22.75%.

Even now, many welfare schemes – like the scheme for giving tailoring machines to women – are not specifically for SC/STs. They were general welfare schemes, but the funds for SC/ST beneficiaries was drawn from SCP/TSP.

Under the tailoring machine scheme, all women get the machines, and SC/ST women get an additional stipend. The idea behind SCP/TSP is that there are schemes exclusively for Dalits to bring them on par with other communities.

After our demand, some 10-15 new schemes were introduced under SCP in 2009-10 budget. These included free study tours and fee reimbursement for school students, funds for those going for IAS/IPS entrance coaching classes etc. Implementation is a different matter. There has been zero spending on many schemes.

In the case of fee reimbursement scheme for school students, BBMP reimbursed fee for those in government and aided schools, but not in private ones. (Planning Commission guidelines clearly say that private school students should also be reimbursed.)

Through our movement, we got some 3500 parents of private school students to apply for the funds, but funds were not released.

Of the current schemes, which would you say are being implemented properly?

If you look at previous spending, civil works are getting the highest funds, and more than the allocated amount is spent for it. These works include building houses, roads, drains, Ambedkar Bhavans etc in SC/ST majority areas. In many wards, there are areas with high SC/ST population; these works are to be done in such areas.

Officials and corporators are interested in these works because they get their cut from contractors. SC/ST people have been demanding welfare and education schemes. Often they do not even know about civil works like road construction going on in their localities.

Has the community benefited from housing projects though?

In the case of housing schemes, BBMP guidelines of 2009 say that the money for building houses should be directly given to the beneficiary; instead of giving tenders to contractors. The ‘Mane Nirman’ scheme is to built 10X30 sq ft or 15X20 sq ft houses at the cost of Rs 3 lakh each.

The money is to be given to beneficiaries in installments – on satisfactory completion of each stage of construction, the next installment should be given. BBMP instead planned on building some 5000 houses in the city, through contractors. These houses are of extremely poor quality.

DBM got 500 people to apply for the amount directly under the scheme, pointing out the guidelines to BBMP. Those applicants – mainly from the South, West and Rajarajeshwari Nagar zones – got the money. Other than this, I have observed that a few others – maybe about a 100 – have got the money themselves and started building their own houses.

In another scheme, ‘Sooru’ – to replace thatched roofs of houses with RCC sheets – each house has to get 10 RCC sheets, but only two were given. Even RCC sheets given during disaster relief, after rains, were included under ‘Sooru’ scheme to inflate the number of beneficiaries.

Which are the other ways by which SC funds are misused?

Some wards do not have SC/ST population. In areas in Vijayanagar MLA constituency, much money was spent for road improvement under SCP, though not many SC people are staying there.

According to guidelines, SCP can be used only in areas where more than 50% of the population is SC. Of the 198 wards, some 100 have areas with majority SC population. (The wards do not have majority SC/ST population, but specific areas within them do. It is in these areas that civil works have to be done.) But spending is done in general population areas.

Are concerns and demands similar across the community in Bangalore?

All SC/ST areas have problems, but these vary. For example, ward 133 (Hampi Nagar) has good housing for SC/ST, but the owners have not been given sale deeds after 60-70 years of staying in the area.

Education should have high priority since it will enable people to demand their rights. Then employment. Other schemes can come later. Give 40% allocation each for education and employment, and the remaining 20% for other works. This is what state government has said in its guidelines too.

Year

Total allocation

SCP/TSP

Percentage allocation

Actual spending

2008-09

2918.7

113.28

3.88

75 (2.5% of budget)

2009-10

4245.3

484.23

11.4

128.8 (3%)

2010-11

8488.5

477.15

5.6

202.8 (2.38%)

About Navya P K 241 Articles
Navya P K is a former senior staff journalist at Citizen Matters, and a freelance journalist based in Kerala.

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