Dr. Jawed Alam Khan
Democratic India’s Constitution makes it obligatory for legislators to scrutinise public expenditure and resource mobilisation. However, legislative scrutiny of the budget is generally found to be weak. As per the Constitution, all revenues and receipts go to a consolidated fund and money can be withdrawn only from the Consolidated Fund in accordance with the laws passed by the Parliament.
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and concerned citizens of the country have been engaged with monitoring of budgets for a long time. This responsibility entails an analysis of the budgets as the key instrument for demystifying priorities underlying public policies and priorities in budget allocations and effectiveness of implementation of development schemes. A major objective of engaging with budgets by CSOs has been assessing the impact of government development interventions on disadvantaged sections of the population. CSOs also believe that exercise of budget analysis and advocacy with governments significantly contribute towards increasing accountability and transparency in the governance system at various levels across the country.
Budget is a statement of estimated expenditure and receipts during the ensuing financial year. Larger objectives of the government budgetary policy are to provide effective governance, improving social and physical infrastructure, promoting employment opportunities, increasing human resource development, reducing income equalities and finally to maintain fiscal balance through economic and price stability. Preparation and presentation of the budget is an annual exercise at various levels of the governance system. The annual budget is prepared for optimal allocation of scarce financial resources taking into account the realities of socio-economic and the country’s political situation.
Budget provides three types of services against annual government expenditure which includes general, economic and social sectors. General services are related to own maintenance, general services-line, general administration, defence, and pension and interest payment. Sub sectors like rural development, industry, commerce and trade, agriculture, banking and transport are part of Economic Services/Sector. Social Sector focuses on services provided by government related to health, education, and also covers the development needs of underprivileged sections like Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, women, children, persons with disability and religious minorities.
For development of minorities, there have been two policy strategies, namely the Prime Minister’s New 15 Point Programme (15 PP) for welfare of minorities and the Area Development Programme or Multi Sectoral Development Programme (MSDP) since 2006 and 2008 respectively. MSDP was renamed Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram (PMJVK) in 2018. With regard to activities, the 15-point programme for the welfare of minorities focuses on enhancing opportunities for education, an equitable share in economic activities and employment, improving living conditions, and prevention and control of communal riots. Except MSDP/PMJVK, all the schemes run by the Ministry of Minority Affairs (MoMA) are also part of 15 PP, and meant 100 percent for the development of the minorities.
Inadequate Availability of Financial Resources
Looking at the total budgetary allocation for minorities in the Union Budget, it may be noted that less than 0.2 percent of the total Union Budget 2021-22 has been earmarked for development of minorities. The ministries and department allocated fund for minorities include 15 PP (100 %), MSDP and 15 PP (15 %). The total expenditure reported for minorities by the central government through 15 PP and MSDP has shown declining trend in the total expenditure since 2012-13, although the religious minorities constitute 21 percent of total population as per census 2011.
With regard to availability of resources for minorities, the Ministry of Finance has not allocated the same in accordance with the MoMA demand. For 2019-20 and 2020-21, only Rs 4,700 crore and Rs 5,029 crore were allocated as against the demand of Rs 5,795.26 crore and Rs 6,452 crore respectively. The reduction in the budget demanded by MoMA has affected the scholarship schemes. Further, there is a decline of 4.5 percent in this budget from the previous year’s budget. Also, the MoMA budget has been reduced from Rs 5,029 crore Budget Estimates (BE) to Rs 4,005 crore Revised Estimates (RE) in 2020-21.
In the Union Budget for last many years, the finance minister has made no mention about the budgets for welfare of minorities, and no new scheme has been announced for their development. Ministry of Education scheme, known as Scheme for Madrasas and Minorities, has been shifted to MoMA with a reduced allocation of Rs 174 crore in 2021-22. The Ministry of Education has reported a figure of Rs 310.22 crore in the RE of 2020-21 for the scheme, which provides financial assistance to introduce modern subjects in Madrasas, trained teachers, and augment school infrastructure in minority institutions. Only Rs 70.94 crore of the Rs 120 crore allocated to the scheme was utilised in 2019-20, affecting the education of children in Madrasas due to non-payment of honorarium to teachers.
Issues in Programmme Design of 15PP
15 PP has certain features of Scheduled Castes Sub Plan (SCSP) and Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) of allocation in terms of fund flow towards religious minorities. The resource allocation made through 15 PP for minorities is a mere accounting exercise to book the expenditure under the general schemes for minorities by select ministries and departments. In terms of allocating the fund (15 percent wherever it is possible) under the 15 PP, the proportional share of minorities in total population was not taken into account which is 21 percent as per the census-2011. In this respect, instead of the current provision of 15 percent of fund allocation under 15 PP, the resource allocation should be made as per the need of minority community.
The data on fund utilisation and achievements of target has to be prepared on general sector programme of 15PP so that it should influence the allocation process in the ensuing financial year. Further, there is an inadequate target for general schemes focusing on minorities through 15 PP by different departments and ministries. The ministries like IT, industry, trade and commerce have been kept out from the preview of 15 PP.
The design of 15 PP is not appropriate in terms of comprehensive coverage of minority population and addressing their development needs until and unless the government initiates/designs some exclusive schemes/programmes for the minorities in Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) renamed after 2014-15. Further, it is focusing just on the Centrally Sponsored schemes without any changes in the guidelines of those CSS. The guidelines of CSS covered under 15 PP should allow for customised intervention by identifying and filling up the development gaps in minority dominated localities.
Minorities have not been included in budgetary process of either the Union or the State government by opening a minor head in detailed budget book and introducing a budget statement on minority related programmes. The government should include minorities in the budgetary processes based on the strategy of implementation of SCSP and TSP.
Targetted outlays of the 15 PP should be disaggregated to the level of hamlets and wards to ensure benefits reaching targetted beneficiaries and the data on achievement should also be reported. It should have the assessment report on achievement of intended outcomes. For effective monitoring, there is need for constitution of a Committee of Secretaries under the Cabinet Secretary, State Level Committee and District Level Committee; and quarterly meeting should be held on regular basis and minutes of the meeting should be made available in the public domain.
There is a need to have more clarity on the part of District and State level implementing agencies on scheme guidelines and mechanism of resource allocation under 15 PP. Social auditors should get access to the data on physical targets and outlays from wards and hamlets for providing feedback that is actionable.
Challenges in Area Development Programme
MSDP/PMJVK guidelines should be revised to focus on undertaking initiatives that are need-based instead of topping up approach adopted in the existing CSS covered under 15 PP. MSDP/ PMJVK should emphasise plans to overcome local development deficit instead of aiming to saturate the coverage of already existing national programme. Secondary and senior secondary schools already constructed under MSDP/ PMJVK in many Minority Concentrated Blocks (MCDs) need to be made functional. Further, there is a need for establishing degree colleges and constructing women hostels in the MCDs for promoting higher education among the minority communities. MSDP has been restructured and the programme is to be implemented as “Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram (PMJVK)” for the period of 14th Finance Commission i.e. up to 2019-20. We recommend that PMJVK should be continued until 2024-25.
Ineffective Implementation of Scholarship Programme
Union Government should make scholarship schemes for minorities demand-driven, looking at the current total number of applications received. The Union Government announced that they are going to give one crore scholarship annually under umbrella scholarship programme. However, it is less than the current total number of applications received annually by Ministry of Minority Affairs. MoMA has made the target for fresh scholarship to be distributed to an average of 30 lakh students in Pre-Matric, 5 lakh in Post-Matric and 60,000 in Merit-cum-Means annually in 2007-08, whereas the scholarships awarded in 2020-21 for the same were 50,46,292, 6,48,133 and 1,17,614 against 90,61,211, 17,62,512 and 2,36,966 applications, respectively. Nearly, 52,48,650 students belonging to minority communities are left out of these schemes every year after receiving applications.
As far as the current annual 5 lakh application quota for PMS is concerned, it is very less compared to the 80 lakh annual quota for the Scheduled Castes in PMS-SC. Further, the eligibility criterion in terms of parent/guardian income is 2 lakh whereas in PMS-SC is 2.5 lakh. MoMA has been allocating around Rs. 2,400 crore for roughly 36 lakh scholarships under umbrella scholarship programme. If government aims to distribute 1 crore fresh scholarships annually, the resource requirement could be Rs. 5,000-6,000 crore. Hence, the government should allocate additional resources of Rs. 3,000 crore to Rs. 3,500 crore if it really wants to distribute 1 crore scholarships annually to minorities.
The Department Related Standing Committee on Social Justice, 2018-19 raised concerns about inadequacy of the amount of Pre-Matric, Post-Matric and Merit-cum-means scholarships given to the students. The unit cost for scholarships has not been revised since inception of the schemes (2007-08). Only Rs. 1,000 per annum is given to day-scholars in Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme. The scheme for post-matric scholarship provides the financial support of Rs.7,000 per annum in terms of admission and tuition fees for classes XI and XII; and a maintenance allowance of Rs. 380 and Rs. 230 per month for hosteller and day-scholars respectively. 85 institutes for professional and technical courses have been listed in the scheme. Eligible students from the minority communities admitted to these institutions are reimbursed full course fees. A course fee of Rs.20,000/- per annum is reimbursed to students studying in other institutions. Besides, a student is also given maintenance allowance of Rs. 500 for day-scholar or Rs. 1,000 for hostellers per month. It is suggested that there is need for revision in these guidelines of Pre-Matric, Post-Matric and Merit Cum Mean Scholarship. Unit cost for scholarship schemes for minorities should be increased and made it inflation indexed. (Department Related Standing Committee on Social Justice- Demand for Grants, Ministry of Minority Affairs 2018-19).
Large numbers of students are deprived of scholarships due to technical glitches at State level and many minorities-run institutions are not able to register on online scholarship web portal. Many students are not able to apply in rural areas due poor internet connectivity and lack of electricity. Therefore, manual application form needs to be allowed along with online application, so, students can take the benefits of the scholarship in rural areas. There is a lack of coordination between minority institutions and officials/offices managing the registration on the online web portal for scholarship and also between banks and district administration in terms of opening bank account of students, which cause delays in availing scholarships. Also, the application procedures need to be streamlined.
- Increase Budgetary Allocation for development of minorities/Muslims. The budget allocation should be made for the religious minorities proportionate to their population.
- Strengthen implementation of Prime Minister’s New 15 Point Programme (15 PP) for Welfare of Minorities. In this respect, instead of the current provision of 15 percent fund allocation under 15 PP, the resource allocation should be made as per the need of the minority community.
- Ensure effective implementation of Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram (PMJVK)/Multi Sectoral Development Programme (MSDP) in terms of need-based projects and theses projects should be operational on time.
- Scholarship schemes for minorities should be made demand-driven and free chip card should be issued at the time registration.
- Unit cost for scholarship schemes for minorities should be increased and made it inflation indexed
- Provide disaggregated level data on status of recruitment of minorities in public services and credit facilities
- Strengthen the online management system of scholarship
- A comprehensive evaluation/ CAG Audit has to be done for scholarship programmes, PMJVK and MSDP in terms of assessing the impact
Ministry of Finance (2016): ‘Guidelines Note on Merger of Plan and Non-Plan classification’, Government of India, New Delhi