Enacts India’s first legislation to implement Sub-Plans for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes

A new chapter was opened for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday when its Assembly adopted a Bill to give legislative backing to the implementation of Sub-Plans for these disadvantaged sections with a mandatory provision for allocation of nearly a fourth of the State’s annual plan of the budget for them hereafter.

This makes AP the first State in the country to enact the law giving legal status to the Sub-Plans as sought by the Planning Commission and National Development Council (NDC) which are insisting on States to adopt this piece of law for a long time.

The legislation will be effective from the State’s 2013-14 budget and if this was enforced last year, a huge sum of Rs. 11,157 crore would have gone to them straightaway from the Rs 48,935-crore plan outlay of the State’s 2012-13 budget (calculated at statutory 16.23 per cent for SCs and 6.6 per cent STs).

The late night passage of the AP SCs and STs Sub-Plans (Planning, Allocation and Utilisation of Resources) Bill climaxed a debate spanning three days for which an exclusive session was held and before the final adoption amid thumping of desks, the House sat for over 15 hours without a break.

The Opposition, by and large, endorsed the proposal by the Kiran Kumar Reddy Government, except the Telugu Desam, which, however, dubbed the initiative as “one that will do no good” aiming at the 2014 elections. An amendment sought by its deputy leader, M. Narsimhulu, a Dalit, to incorporate a provision for proportionate allocations to ABCD groups within the SCs based on their socio-economic conditions and population, to enable them to claim the first benefit, was lost by 22 votes when it was subjected to voting.

Advice to Opposition

The Chief Minister in his reply said the Opposition should not be apprehensive about his decision not to table the report of the Cabinet sub-committee based on whose recommendations the Bill was introduced, saying nothing was kept secret as 29 out of 33 of its recommendations had been accepted.

The committee, through the remaining recommendations, sought establishment of an ombudsman to monitor the Sub-Plans but this job could be handled by Lokayukta. There was no divergence of opinion over this use among the Ministers and party leaders.

He rejected demands by the Opposition for constituting an empowered group of Ministers for the same purpose, on the ground that Ministers would be drafted into the nodal agencies.

The legislation would make the sub-plans a right of the SCs and STs, binding on successive Chief Ministers. There was no constitutional provision to prevent lapsing of SC/ST funds, as the Assembly was empowered to adopt annual budget only for one year.

He saidthe problem could be tackled through an executive order.