THE experience of the last 20 years shows that the Sub-Plan (earlier Sub-Component Plan) in the budget for SC/STs had been an eyewash. Though the process has been started by the Planning Commission 31 years ago, the Tamilnadu government took up this agenda only 20 years back. It was accepted in principle. That is all. Only in the last two-three years, the allotment of funds has been made. It was a mere ritual and even in that ritual process, STs were left out. The new government led by the AIADMK has now allotted funds for ST Sub Plan in the budget for 2011-2012.
The TNUEF that has taken up many issues of atrocities had decided to take the issue to its logical conclusion. It is an open secret that in the last 20 years, the funds that were meant for the upliftment of the oppressed sections have been diverted to other purposes. For the Commonwealth games, without any shame, this fund was utilised. Those who are in power have minted a lot of money through it, is a different story. In Tamilnadu, when the new hostel for the MLAs was constructed, in an unmindful manner, funds that were meant for dalits' welfare were diverted for construction of 44 houses. 44 legislative assembly constituencies are reserved for SCs in the state. This shows the utter callousness on the part of the state government. This was criticised by the TNUEF on earlier occasions. All the houses should have been constructed using the common fund, the TNUEF said.
The TNUEF had decided to organise a special convention on this to draw the attention of not only the government, but also the people of the state. The convention was held on August 10 in Chennai. A charter of demands was released during the deliberations. Earlier, a draft for the charter was circulated widely to get the inputs from various organisations, social thinkers, intellectuals etc. B V Raghavulu, vice president of KVPS, (Struggle Committee Against Caste Discrimination) Andhra Pradesh had released the charter of demands.
A rousing speech was delivered by him after releasing the charter. He exhorted the TNUEF to organise people's committees to monitor the funds whether they have been utilised for the earmarked project or have been diverted for other purposes. Further, in Andhra Pradesh, a big lake was created with the funds meant for dalits’ welfare. Even the earlier allotments and diversions should be exposed. An enquiry commission is necessary to find out the various problems faced by the dalits that includes the living conditions. The whereabouts of 12 lakh acre Panchami lands should be found out. The enquiry commission should go through the records of it. The experience of Andhra Pradesh is that due to the formation of an enquiry commission, many facts have come to light. Earlier, we were fighting for pattas, which gives land rights to the dalits. The demand has come now that we should fight to retrieve the lands that belonged to them, he said.
In his introductory speech, P Sampath, president, TNUEF, has castigated the Adi-Dravidar Welfare Department for merely collecting information. This department should become a monitoring agency for the expenditure of Sub-Plan funds. Just giving some concessions will not uplift the oppressed classes. Hence the need for Sub-Plan. To achieve the goal of this Plan, all democratic forces should come together to ensure its proper implementation. Because, this is not a caste issue, but a democratic issue, he said.
The CPI(M) will raise the issue of non-allocation of funds in the assembly, said A Soundarrajan, CPI(M) leader in the Tamilnadu assembly. He questioned the process of sale and purchase of dalit lands. The lands that were allotted to the dalits cannot be sold or purchased. With this law, how come lakhs of acres of lands have changed hands, he asked. Irrespective of buyers, even if they are in high positions, the lands should be brought back to dalits, he said.
P Shanmugam, state general secretary, AIKS, has charged that the Tamilnadu government is the only government that did not implement the Forest Rights Protection Act. Even in the present budget, there is no mention of it. S K Mahendran presided over the convention. Ex-IAS officers Sivakami, Karuppan, Manivannan, TN government additional secretary Christhu Das Gandhi, Fr Kumar, Nicolas, K Bhimrao, MLA, Jakkaiyan of Arunthamizhar Viduthalai Iyakkam and many other leaders took part in the event. The huge meeting hall could not accommodate the audience since thousands of people had assembled from all over the state. At the end, K Samuel Raj, general secretary, TNUEF had announced that a demonstration will be organised in all the district headquarters to demand the proper allocation and expenditure of the Sub-Plan. The audience approved it with thunderous applause.
The convention had passed many resolutions that include demanding a white paper on the expenditure of funds, demanding MPLADS and MLA funds to be spent for dalit welfare schemes, documentation of the lives of the historical personalities from the oppressed communities, demanding the government to conduct campaign on Atrocities Prevention Act, allotting more time in assembly and in local bodies to discuss the issues faced by the dalits etc.
Courtesy : People's Democracy(August 21)