First in India: Law on SC/ST funds gets nod

The AP Cabinet on Wednesday approved the Bill giving a share to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes Sub Plan in the Budget.

The Bill will be introduced during the two-day Assembly Session convened from November 30 exclusively to debate and approve it.

While it has been the practice to allocate 16.9 per cent of the Budget to SCs and 6.6 per cent to STs, the spending has remained mostly on paper. In most cases the funds allocated for the sub plan are diverted to other programmes.

However, for the first time, legislative backing will be given to pooling of funds and identification of works that will help remove disparity between the SC/STs and other sections of society.

Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, who initiated the process of giving legitimacy to the sub plan, is confident that additional funds of Rs 4,000 crore will be made available for SCs and STs, thanks to the Bill. Sources said that he was of the view that proper implementation of the sub plan would fetch political dividends for the Congress in the 2014 elections.

No ombudsman in final draft of Bill

Once the Governor gives assent to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes Sub Plan, it will be sent to the Centre for approval. Since the subject falls in the Concurrent List, the Bill’s fate hangs on the Centre’s decision.

Sources told this newspaper that though the ombudsman system to enquire into lapses of the official machinery in implementing the sub-plan had been recommended by the Cabinet sub-committee, the final draft Bill had no mention of an ombudsman.

“Of the 32 recommendations made by the Cabinet sub-committee, only four core issues found place in the Bill,” sources said.

The government did not agree with the recommendation of the sub-committee that erring officials should be imprisoned based on the severity of error committed, and restricted the scope of punishment to departmental action.

A council under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister will identify at least six months in advance the specific programmes and works to be included in the sub-plan by different departments. The respective departments shall make provision in the Budget for these works and implement them accordingly.

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