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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 15, April 8, 2023

Why Two Ministries Have Been So Reluctant to Spend Their Allotted Funds? | Bharat Dogra

Saturday 8 April 2023, by Bharat Dogra


Two important Union Ministries have shown extraordinary reluctance to spend their allotted funds this year. What makes the situation more distressing is that both of these ministries have responsibility for important schemes which are important for more vulnerable and poorer sections.

One such Ministry is the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, or more specifically the Department of Social Justice and Environment (DSJE). This is the department that deals with very important issues regarding the welfare of scheduled castes, extremely backward classes, other backward classes, nomadic, semi-nomadic communities and denotified tribes. The original budget allocation during 2022-23 for DSJE amounted to INR 11922 crore (one crore=10 million) which was later revised downwards to INR 10709 crore. However what is most surprising and shocking is that the actual spending up to February 15, 2023 ( ie for ten and a half months out of the 12 months of the financial year 2022-23) amounted to just 3488 crore or just 29% of the original allocation. It is seldom that till such a late date of the financial year such a low spending takes place, that too in a ministry where the spending directly concerns the needs of some of the poorest persons in the country. The fact that the Revised Estimate had been brought down allocation only modestly in relative terms would indicate that till rather late in the financial year the need for sticking to the original allocation was felt and funds were available too, so why actual expenditure has been so inadequate is difficult to understand, considering also that those affected are really needy sections.

To give one example of various programs for the poor which were very adversely affected, the allocation of INR 70 crore for the self-employment program of those engaged earlier in manual scavenging (for which the revised estimate was maintained at the same level) was reduced to actual spending of only INR 5 crore. The allocation of INR 15 crore for rehabilitation of beggars was reduced to 0.2 crore. The allocation for the strengthening of arrangements for protecting civil rights and preventing atrocities was INR 600 crore but spending was reduced to INR 75 crore. The program of economic empowerment of nomadic and denotified tribes was allotted INR 28 crore but spending was only INR 2 crore. ( All spending figures are up to February 15 2022).

The second ministry in this context is the Ministry of Minority Affairs where the spending was an even lower percentage of the allocation. In this context the original budget allocation for the Ministry was INR 5020 crore while the spending up to February 13 was just INR 668 crore, or just 13% of the original budget. It is seldom seen that in the 10 and a half months out of 12 months only 13% of the funds are spent. There is no credible explanation for this—as far as procedural issues and regulations are concerned, these have been created by the government and have to be corrected by the government.

Clearly these serious lapses should be made up as early as possible by stepping up important welfare-oriented programs in the new financial year.
Note about data source —Standing Committee of Parliament (2022-23)—Department of Social Justice and Empowerment—Demands on Grants—46th and 47th Reports, 17th Lok Sabha, March 2023

(Author: Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children, Planet in Peril, and A Day in 2071)

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