Dalits fear caste-wise budget allocations will create divisions

Bageshree S.
‘Oppressed communities need education, healthcare rather than bhavans’

Bangalore: The provisions made in the 2009-10 budget in the social welfare sector is striking for the number of allocations made to specific caste groups and caste-based organisations.
However, Dalit and backward class activists fear that this will only create divisions and convert castes into vote banks rather than contribute to their social empowerment as a whole.
The budget makes an allocation for improving infrastructure for organisations of communities such as Vishwakarma, Kshatriya, Uppara, Kuruba, Devanga and a host of other communities.
There is yet another allocation for providing loans to Kambara, Badiga and other professional communities. It makes a significant allocation for communities such as the Banjaras and Valmikis too, but the emphasis here is on building bhavans for these communities. Institutions run by Christian, Buddhist, Jain and other minority communities get yet another allocation.
The accent in most allocations is clearly not on educational and social advancement. For instance, while there is a promise of building bhavans in 200 Lambani tandas at a cost of Rs. 10 lakh each and district-level Banjara bhavans at a cost of Rs. 10 crore each, the total allocation for improving 500 Banjara tandas remains Rs. 50 crore, pointing to the imbalance in priorities. It is also significant that many of the allocations made to maths and temples are again aimed at Dalit and backward class groups. Allocations made to no less than 10 maths and temples — in the range of Rs. 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh each — are targeted at them.
“Dalit communities need quality education and access to healthcare rather than bhavans built in their name to please a few leaders in each community,” said M. Venkatesh, an activist of the Dalit Bahujan Samaj.
Indudhar Honnapura of the Dalit Sangharsha Samiti said, “The biggest tragedy is the division being created within the Dalit community on caste lines.”
While internal reservation has been a much-debated issue, random allocation without scientifically taking into account the population share is no more than divisive, vote-bank tactics, he added.
Increased allocation Another much emphasised aspect of the budget is the three-fold increase in the targeted allocation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the “pooled fund”, to be disbursed through the Social Welfare Department, from Rs. 200 crore to Rs. 600 crore.
Dalit activists are sceptical as to whether this will mean anything at all considering that the 18 per cent set aside by all government departments under Special Component Scheme does not get spent even by half, year after and year, and some of it even being diverted for works not related to Dalit welfare.
The budget proposes renaming LIDKAR, the State-owned leather industry which is now in doldrums, as Jagjivan Ram Development Corporation. This too comes across as a mere tokenism in the absence of a clear vision on how the beleaguered industry will be revived and artisans helped.
While the long-pending demand of Dalit groups to allocate 23 per cent in the budget for social welfare in proportion to their population has remained a distant dream, even the allocation made in the budget seems far from aiming at addressing their real issues.