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Updated: February 21, 2013 10:07 IST

Monitoring budget justice

Bharat Dogra
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Allocation shortfall: Faced by marginalised sections. Photo: K.R. Deepak
The Hindu Allocation shortfall: Faced by marginalised sections. Photo: K.R. Deepak

A careful scrutiny and documentation of budget allocation by several organisations has helped obtain rights for weaker sections of society

An important but neglected aspect of budget allocation is the extent to which it protects the interests of various weaker sections in society. Some organisations have been constantly observing and citing these gaps to obtain rights of marginalised groups.

A study of the benefits provided for widows in previous budgets in Rajasthan revealed that compared to the estimates of the total number of widows in the State, funds allocated for widow pensions were adequate for only about 13 per cent of the total number. Even if pensions were to be provided only to relatively poorer widows, this figure should have been closer to 60 to 70 per cent. Also the monthly pension had been kept too low. Conducted by Jaipur-based Budget Analysis Research Centre (BARC), this study was used by organisations to successfully campaign for better allocations for widows, lead by Ekal Mahila Sangathan.

More recently, a study by All India Artisans and Craft Workers Welfare Association of the allocations in various years for handlooms under the Union Budget revealed that as far as planned expenditure was concerned, over the years the share of the handlooms in the overall allocation for the entire textile sector had decreased considerably. This finding helped organisations of handloom weavers to ask for a better deal for handlooms. The myth created by announcements of special election-eve packages or concessions for handlooms was busted, and the study revealed the increasing neglect of the handlooms by the government.

In Gujarat, efforts were made by the organisation Disha and its budget-analysis wing (which later became a separate organisation) to analyse in details the budget allocation and spending for scheduled tribes. These findings enabled organisations working for tribal welfare to obtain a better tool for them.

In some parts of the country, reviews of the special component plans have helped to obtain more funds for the welfare of scheduled castes and tribes (SC/T). In 1979, the government started the Special Component Plan (SCP) to ensure that interests of SCs are protected in budgets. The main thrust of the SCP was to ensure that funds for SCs are allotted at least in proportion to the SC population in any state's total population.

A study published by BARC titled 'How long would the Dalits continue to be deprived of their due share?’ showed how the SCP has been violated in a big way and how the funds have been diverted in Rajasthan. Several anomalies in funding were exposed. BARC extended this study to cover the funding of the tribal sub-plan (TSP), once again showing how the norm of funding in proportion to percentage of tribal population was not being adhered to year after year. These efforts contributed to the partial remedial action finally being taken in recent years by the Rajasthan government to bring the funding for SCP and TSP closer to proper norms.

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