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Dalit rights activists say Indian government's pro-farmer budget not enough

AFP PHOTO / PUNIT PARANJPE
Text by: Karen Burke
3 min

Campaigners for social justice in India have lashed out against the government's budget, claiming funds for Dalits are inadequate. But academics welcomed the pro-farmer measures, which hit the headlines.

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The National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights in Delhi says the new measures take way allocations from scheduled tribes and castes. General secretary Paul Divakar called the budget a "disappointment", saying that the reallocation of funds would affect the livelhoods and educations of Dalits.

The Delhi-based organisaton released a report claiming that the government's new budget repeats an old pattern of allocating provisions to scheduled castes and tribes that are below their share of the population and that what was actually spent was much lower than what was budgeted.

Divakar said that data analysis of budget numbers over the past five years shows that fund allocations to tribal and scheduled caste subplans were on average over 50 per cent less than what was due.

"There has been a 54.9 per cent cut, so we have lost around 75,000 gross of rupees, which has been denied in the budget to the Dalits," he told RFI. "This will affect not just livelihoods but also education, access to jobs, access to skills, and several other budgetary provisions that the state has to make. We are very disappointed with this budget."

India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who presented his third Union Budget on Monday, said that the government had allocated 11.63 billion euros to rural development as a whole, as well as 14.85 billion euros in measures targeted at the countryside, including spending on a job-creation scheme, farmers' welfare and building of rural roads. Farmers will also receive just under 120 billion euros in credit.

Professor Vinayak Govilkar, the Prinicipal of the BYK College of Commerce in Nashik,  welcomed the measures.

"In India at present there is an agricultural produce marketing committee and the farmers do not get a fair price if they sell through this marketing committee," he said. "Now the government has proposed to have an agricultural marketing platform and to this platform, the farmers can sell their produce."

VR Thukun, Associate Professor for agriculture and economics at the Central Agricultural University in the north east of India, said he was optimistic about the budget.

"If you consider that horticulture in India is leading in terms of production, we are very much optimistic," he said. 

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