Friday, July 26, 2013

How Socially Inclusive is the Union Budget 2013-14

This article is jointly written with Jawed A. Khan of Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA), New Delhi Immediately after the Independence, India committed to serve the disadvantaged sections through a development planning process. The policy-driven benefits envisaged earmarking funds and physical benefits in the Union and State Budgets. Backed by the Constitutional provisions, the Planning Commission during the 1970s formulated the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (SCSP) and the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) with the objective to channel Plan funds for these communities in accordance with their share in population which for all-India was 16% and 8% respectively (2001 Census). Other strategic designs and affirmative action policies to enhance the developmental impact to benefit the SCs and STs were also devised. This approach was a departure from the past when the government benefits flowing down to marginalized communities was only ‘incidental’ Twenty Seven ministries and departments earmarked Plan funds through exclusive budget heads (budget code 789 for SCSP, and budget code 796 for TSP) which were also identified in the ‘detailed demand for grants (DDGs). Area-oriented outlays to benefit SC/ST- dominated hamlets were also incorporated into the DDGs. All the allocation mechanisms were mandated to be non-divertible and non-lapsable by law. The union budget statements-21 and 21A accounts for total expenditures along with budgeted and revised estimates in favor of the SC and ST schemes managed by each department. The respective allocations in the union budget 2013-14 accounted for 9.7% and 5.8 % of total Plan funds. As a follow-up to the Sachar Report, first time in the 11th Plan, the Union government explicitly committed to address deprivation, inequality and exclusion of the Muslims and other minorities within the stated ‘faster and inclusive growth’ model. Since 2006-07 program focus was placed on ‘education and economic empowerment, access to public services, strengthening of minority institutions and area development programme’. Two exclusive Plan strategies favouring religious minorities were - the PM's new 15 point programme (15PP), and the Multi-Sectoral Development Programme (MSDP). The 15PP envisaged earmarking 15% of total allocations and achieving the physical targets under select flagship programmes for development of minorities. There were two other commitments; one by the ‘department of personal and training’ with a promise to ensure 15 % share in public employment; and ‘department of financial services’ with targets to disburse 15 % of the annual ‘priority sector lending’ (PSL) to favour minorities. The 15PP operational since the eighties were never seriously implemented and reviewed; yet the revamped 15PP in 2006 intended to focus the vital concerns of (a) education, (b) employment and skill development, (c) living conditions, and (d) security among minorities. The mechanism was by incorporating major concerns within the ambit of select flagship schemes. Currently, eleven Union ministries/departments claimed to be involved in implementing the 15PP, including Ministries of Rural Development, Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Labour and Employment, Minority Affairs, Home, Finance, Women and Child Development, School Education and Literacy, Personal and Training. Selected schemes are Indira AwasYojana (IAY), Ajivika, National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP), Urban Infrastructure and Governance (UIG), Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT), Integrated Housing Slum Development Programme (IHSDP), Basic Services for Urban Poor (BSUP), SwarnaJayanti Gram (KGBV), Priority Sector Lending to Minorities, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), SwarozgarYojana (SJSRY), Industrial Training Institutes(ITIs), SarvaShiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, and Madrassa Modernisation Programme. The Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA), an independent think tank, estimated that around 6 % of the 11th Plan allocations were accounted for the minorities and 70 % of allocation was spent through Jawaharlal Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). Yet a review of the extent of inclusion of Muslims in JNNURM, found no flows at the state and district levels. Thus such allocations made under this mission are notional; and actual expenditure and beneficiary data on minorities are not available. Further, the share of schemes and programs directly benefiting the minorities such as the MSDP, scholarship schemes, IAY, SGSY, ITIs and SJSRY have been allocated meager shares of the total outlays. Minorities’ involvement in the budgetary processes is a stated objective of 12th plan. Yet no separate budget statements or schemes for minorities are found in the mainstream ministries/departments; nor have ‘major and minor accounting heads’ been created to channel funds meant for minorities in the DDGs system. There is no mechanism to capture allocation for minorities by mainstream ministries at time of budget presentation except by the Ministry of Minority Affairs (MMA). The ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) provides details of allocation only on Madrasa Modernization Program. Even allocations for minorities under the ‘SSA’ are not made available by the MHRD. Only 0.23 % of total Union Budget 2013-14 has been earmarked for minorities, whereas they constitute about 19 % of population of the country (Census 2001). During 2012-13, the national level flow of PSL to minorities was reported to be 1, 71,960 crore, which was more than 15% of the total PSL. Yet there is a no mechanism for providing information on beneficiaries and purpose of lending. Similarly, percentage share of minorities in total government recruitment is accounted to be 11.5 % in 2010-11, again unsubstantiated – a non-transparent disclosure. Both these data are not further disaggregated by the minority identities, and therefore not possible to know as to whether the representation of Muslims in the PSL and recruitment has improved over time. Sachar report highlighted huge gap of representation of Muslims in government and public sector employment and also very low credit flow. It is therefore essential that the government make the recruitment and PSA data public and with proper definitions and accounting system for a fair public audit. The ‘People’s Budget Initiatives’, a civil society budget group requested the Ministry of Finance twice to bring out a budget statement on programs and schemes on the line of the SCSP and TSP; but for no avail. Whatever expenditure with respect to benefits/entitlements for minorities/Muslims which is reported now is based on retrospective calculations, often superficial, could be labeled as guestimates undertaken without planning and need identification. Additionally, Ministry of Minority Affairs itself remained unconvinced that the data reported by several ministries on 15PP are reliable. The minority oriented policy initiatives will not yield results and show measurable impact unless there is a commitment on the part of the Union Government expressed in the form of ‘separate budget statements’ on minority related programs; as is now a common practice in case of women, children, SCs and STs and environment (for expenditure reporting). Such a reporting should also reflect through a ‘dedicated heads of accounts’ meant for minorities/Muslims in the DDGs for mainstream ministries. The funds meant for minorities need to be made non-divertible and non-lapsable as well.