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Budget set to boost schemes linked to SCs, STs, senior citizens

Jan 19, 2023

Synopsis
The thrust is likely to be on infrastructure creation in SC and ST-dominated districts, they said, with enhanced allocation for construction of residential schools and hostels for SC and ST students, care homes for senior citizens and under Pradhan Mantri Adi Adarsh Gram Yojana to improve basic infrastructure facilities in villages with more than 40% tribal population.

The Union Budget is set to give a major push to the social sector, especially schemes directly benefiting the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and senior citizens, ahead of elections in nine states and one Union territory and the parliamentary polls next year, said people aware of the matter.

The thrust is likely to be on infrastructure creation in SC and ST-dominated districts, they said, with enhanced allocation for construction of residential schools and hostels for SC and ST students, care homes for senior citizens and under Pradhan Mantri Adi Adarsh Gram Yojana to improve basic infrastructure facilities in villages with more than 40% tribal population.

The most crucial intervention in the budget for 2023-24 is likely to be on funds allocated by central ministries for SC and ST welfare. At present, 41 central ministries earmark 2-25% of the total Budget outlay under Development Action Plan for Scheduled Castes (DAPSC) and Scheduled Tribes Component (STC) for targeted schemes for SCs and STs. This outlay works to around ₹2.2-2.3 lakh crore annually. Every year certain ministries struggle to find schemes under their purview to spend allocated funds. These include departments of commerce, telecom, petroleum and natural gas, coal and mines.

The upcoming Budget is likely to rationalise the scheme and exempt certain ministries from allocating funds under DAPSC and STC, but without slashing the overall allocation for targeted schemes for SCs and STs. "The outlay of the ministries which will be exempted may be pruned and this either allocated to the nodal ministry (ministry of social justice and empowerment) or increase the percentage of total outlay other ministries are required to earmark," said a senior official, who did not wish to be identified.

For the current financial year, the Centre had allocated ₹1,42,342.36 crore under DAPSC. Till date, ministries have been able to spend only 65% of the outlay. Ministries of telecom and commerce, among others, have not been able to identify substantial schemes to spend the earmarked funds. The outlay under STC is ₹87,584.66 crore, of which about 71.67% has been utilised.

[The Economic Times]