People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXVI

No. 49

December 09, 2012

 

ANDHRA PRADESH SC/ST SUB-PLAN BILL 2012

 

Sustained Struggles Achieve Significant Victory

 

G Mamatha

 

IT is indeed a major victory a first in the country for the forces fighting for social justice to achieve statutory status for the Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan and Scheduled Tribe Sub-Plan in Andhra Pradesh.

 

Dalits and tribals since ages have been subjected to worst forms of social oppression and economic exploitation. They are the most marginalised sections of our society who continue to live in abysmal conditions even after 67 years of independence. They face all round discrimination social, economic political and cultural. The government which is supposed to work for their development too discriminates. It does not allocate the funds it is supposed to, for the welfare of dalits and tribals. These are the sections who are readily available for loot even for the government. It is their money that the government finds it easy to divert to other works be they beautification of lakes, building flyovers, 'outer-ring' roads, greater cities or for the Commonwealth games, as we had seen in Delhi. These monies are supposed to lift them up from poverty, destitution, hunger, unemployment, illiteracy, ill-health etc; to provide them basic needs for leading a humane life. But they are denied to them and diverted by the government.

 

As general development programmes could not specially cater to their socio-economic upliftment and bring them on par with other sections of society, Special Component Plan (which was later renamed as Scheduled Caste Sub Plan) and Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) were formulated. The SCSP is an important intervention through the planning process for social, economic and educational development of Scheduled Castes and also for the improvement in their working and living conditions. It was started from the Sixth Five Year Plan period with two important objectives of (i) implementing family and individual oriented income generating programmes for the economic development of the Scheduled Castes and (ii) providing basic minimum amenities and essential services in Scheduled Caste localities to ameliorate their working and living conditions. It directed the central and state governments to allocate funds from the annual plan outlays in proportion to the percentage of the population of the Scheduled Castes. But never has this been implemented.

 

Sustained struggles carried out in Andhra Pradesh resulted in the enactment of a legislation to ensure proper implementation of SC/ST Sub-Plans. The Andhra Pradesh Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan Scheduled Tribe Sub-Plan (Planning, Allocation and Utilisation of Financial Resources) Bill 2012 was passed in the state assembly on December 2, 2012. A three-day special session of the state legislature held from November 30 to December 2 passed the bill providing statutory status to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribe Sub-Plan.

 

This bill is the fruit of a long and arduous struggle waged by the Kulavivaksha Vyatireka Porata Sangham (Struggle Committee against Caste Discrimination) and the CPI(M). KVPS took up the issue of proper implementation of Sub-Plans since 2002. They organised many programmes and agitations demanding a separate Nodal Agency for the utilisation of Sub-Plan funds. Sub-Plan funds must be allocated to the SC/ST Nodal Agencies at the time of preparing the budget itself with a mandate to spend them exclusively for the welfare of dalits and tribals. A massive Chalo Assembly was held in 2003 to highlight these demands. Prior to 2004 assembly elections, a state convention was held in Hyderabad soliciting the positions of all political parties on these demands. Representing the Congress party, the then leader of opposition in state assembly, late Y S Rajashekar Reddy promised to implement these measures if voted to power. But after assuming power, no action was taken till 2007. Highlighting this failure, an indefinite hunger strike was launched in Hyderabad by 25 KVPS leaders, led by its vice president and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, B V Raghavulu in 2008. Once again a massive Chalo Assembly was organised. The Congress government, instead of staying true to its promise and heeding to these demands, unleashed brutal police repression. The state assembly was stalled for two days on this issue. This struggle forced the government to appoint Nodal Agencies to oversee the implementation of Sub-Plan funds. An apex committee headed by chief minister was also formed. This resulted in some improvement in the quantum of funds allocated for Sub-Plans and their expenditure. But without allocating the funds to the Nodal Agencies and not providing them with a legal back up, these bodies remained toothless. Not allocating the funds in proportion to the population, diverting even the meagre allocations to sectors not useful for dalits and tribals still persisted. For instance, in the 2012-13 state budget for the current fiscal, nearly half of the amount allocated for SCP has been diverted to non-dalit areas. Such amounts of diversion and cuts in Sub-Plan funds over the last 19 years add up to nearly Rs 26,000 crore.

 

This whole year KVPS has been waging consistent struggles on this issue. At the initiative of the KVPS, a broad-based 'Joint Action Committee for Achieving SC/ST Sub-Plan Funds' was formed. It comprised of 100 organisations and 20 prominent individuals amongst whom were retired IAS, IPS officers, academics and intellectuals. A 72-hour hunger strike was held from March 23, 2012. The Congress government did not respond. A delegation of ministers came to the hunger strike camp on March 25 and appealed for withdrawal of next day's 'Chalo Assembly'. It was made clear that unless the government comes out with categorical statement on the demands, the struggle would not be withdrawn.

 

Heavy police force was deployed at the venue on March 26. Thousands of dalits and tribals from across the state reached Hyderabad to participate in the Chalo Assembly. When the protesters tried to march to the assembly on March 26, the police barricaded the entire area and resorted to arrests. Hundreds of activists and leaders were arrested. Denouncing this high handedness of the police and the apathy of government to their demands, the protesters staged a spontaneous sit-in at Indira Park. Raghavulu led the sit-in and stayed overnight at the camp. It was resolved that the struggle would continue till the government accepts the demand. Under such circumstances, the chief minister announced in the state assembly on March 27, the constitution of a cabinet sub-committee to study and recommend the contours of a legislation to oversee the effective implementation of Sub-Plans. It was asked to submit its report in 2-3 months.

 

To intensify the pressure mounted on the government, a broad-based united struggle was launched. JACs were formed at district, division and mandal levels encompassing a total of 873 local organisations. Activities taken up during this period included conducting of seminars and meetings focussing on the demand and giving  deputations to governor, chief minister, ministers, speaker of assembly, district collectors etc., seeking an immediate legislation. Resolutions were passed in Grama Sabhas demanding legislation and sent to the chief minister.

 

Forcing the government to concede the demand of legislation for implementation of Sub Plan funds is indeed a victory of united struggle. By continuously taking up the issues of the most downtrodden sections of society the dalits and tribals the CPI(M) has been able to rally various social movements and other sections under a broad united platform.

 

Though, the enactment of the legislation has to be welcomed, that should not mean a blind endorsement, as it has some lacunae. The bill explicitly guarantees allocation, not expenditure in proportion to the population. It excludes certain departments from implementing Sub-Plan. There is no ombudsman. It lays a ceiling on the amount of money to be allocated to sub plan, thereby making it difficult to utilise the unspent money of the previous year. SCSP/TSP funds have to be made non-lapsable and non-divertible. These provisions are necessary for making the bill strong and plug in the loopholes. Nevertheless the experience from Andhra Pradesh inspires similar and more militant actions all over the country, to legally bind the government over its commitments.