While the Modi government’s Stand-up India initiative—to help create more SC/ST and women entrepreneurs—was launched earlier this year amid much buzz, recent data shows that the government’s record in extending such help to the vulnerable sections of the society has been poor. According to a report in The Economic Times, the government was only able to extend its loan facility to 57 entrepreneurs in the two years since it launched Credit Enhancement Guarantee Scheme for Scheduled Castes and Venture Capital Fund For Scheduled Castes (VCFSC), with 53 being funded via the latter route. What’s worse, in the previous fiscal, 17 of 25 states could barely use half of the funds allocated for the purpose.
The problem does not end here—as an IndiaSpend analysis shows, over the last 35 years, Rs 2.8 lakh crore ($42.6 billion) reserved for SC/ST beneficiaries by way of programmes like mid-day meal, scholarships and crop insurance support under the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (SCSP) and Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) has remained unspent. While the government increased the allocation for the two schemes by 25% in FY15 over FY14, to Rs 82,935 crore, it witnessed a fall in expenditure with the amount unspent tripling to Rs 32,979 crore. Though new schemes would certainly help the government to uplift the weaker sections, it needs to improve access to existing schemes’ funds for beneficiaries. Also, with most states not keeping an account of their expenditure under these schemes, the government would do well to create a mechanism for better reporting of such spend.