Tuesday, September 20, 2016

NIKHIL M. BABU - Rs 2.8 Lakh Crore Allocated For Dalits, Adivasis Not Spent By Government

The unspent amount is eight times larger than India’s agriculture budget and enough to fund India’s rural road construction projects for the next 15 years.

It was raining heavily last monsoon when Heerabai’s youngest child, four-year-old Seshkumari, collapsed with a fever. The family could only watch helplessly as her temperature soared and she turned delirious late at night.

The nearest primary health centre for Pachkol, Heerabai’s village in Chhindwara district in southwest Madhya Pradesh, is 25 km away. And every monsoon, the swollen Bhagbhel river floods the road linking the village to the health centre. If you fall sick, said residents, you have very little hope of finding any medical help.

“My daughter couldn’t even recognise us as the fever got worse at two in the morning,” recalled Heerabai, 30, lean and noticeably weak. That morning, she lost her daughter.

Heerabai and her three surviving children belong to Bhariya community, classified as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG). Her tragedy is the consequence of a 44% shortfall in the healthcare infrastructure in the tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh. This is despite the fact that last year, the state government had Rs 4,000 crore of the money allocated for tribal welfare left in hand.

IndiaSpend’s investigations, through a series of right to information (RTI) requests, reveal that over the last 35 years, Rs 2.8 lakh crore set aside to improve the lives of scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs) through measures like mid-day meals, scholarships and crop insurance was simply not spent. The second part of the series explores why the funds remain unspent.