Redistribute land, provide free edu to reduce inequality

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Redistribute land, provide free edu to reduce inequality

Friday, 15 September 2023 | MANAS JENA

The great ideas of One World -One Family and Sabaka Sath Sabaka Vikas must be translated into reality through various Government policies and projects that lead us to build social and economic equality among social groups. In particular, the focus must be on historically marginalised sections, those who have suffered over centuries.

 

Our anti-colonial and anti-feudal freedom struggle was ideally targeted towards building equality among social groups. The Constitution of India is more focused on such principles. Former PM Indira Gandhi initiated the scheme of special component plans within the annual plans budget for two major social groups, SCs and STs, for their economic development to arrest the persistent economic gaps among different social groups in the country. The plan is that the Central, State and UT Governments must exclusively allocate the budgets in the annual plan outlay in proportion to the population of the SCs and STs of the country and  respective States or UTs.  The benefits of growth must  reach all sections of people in our society towards building an inclusive society.

 

It has been observed that there are huge gaps in the implementation of the important plan that matters to the lives and livelihoods of a vast number of people in States such as Odisha. A number of surveys and study reports by the Government and many others have reaffirmed the poor status of these social groups in the multidimensional poverty index as well as other human and social development indexes. But the Government of Odisha has not made any special effort to address the situation with any special schemes under SCSP and TSP.

 

The guidelines of the NITI Aayog, erstwhile the Planning Commission, in this regard,have been purposefully ignored and remain dysfunctional. The States such as Telangana, Karnataka and many others have made exemplary initiatives through legislation and special schemes that impacted the life of SCs and STs in their State.

 

The Telangana State Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Special Development Fund (Planning ,allocation and utilisation of financial Resources )Act 2017 can be referred to in this matter. Some of the schemes  promoted by Telengana under SCSP/TSP include distribution of land to the landless families, Ambedkar Overseas Vidyanidhi for SC and ST students pursuing higher studies overseas, Kalyana Lakshmi Pathakam, financial assistance at the time of marriage  to  brides of financially weaker SC/ST families and inter-caste marriage assistance , construction of double-bedroom houses for poor SC/ST families and  assistance to improve the condition of basic amenities in hamlets of SC and ST and  Dalit Bandhu scheme.

 

 

Odisha has no such special scheme out of State funds focusing on land and quality education. Most of the schemes are Central-sponsored where the State has a matching contribution only. The funds under SCSP and TSP have been diverted for other purposes in the absence of any dedicated schemes by the State. There has been a complete absence of planning, coordination and monitoring mechanisms to track the funds. The schemes for SCs and STs have no targets and a time limit to complete the programme as it goes on in an unending process.

 

Take the  example of the homestead land  distribution scheme  such as BASUNDHARA and JAGA Mission. Land being a State subject, the State Governments have  taken almost 70 years to finish the unfinished task, but we still have thousands of landless families who are struggling to build a house for a decent living. So also, the issues of basic amenities such as drinking water, toilets, electricity and connectivity remain out of the reach of a large number  of families, mainly belonging to SCs and STs.

 

  Almost more than 95 percent of the  SCs and STs households are managed by the earnings of wage labourers who are engaged in agriculture, forest produce collection, traditional fishing, artisans, sanitary workers and daily wage earners in urban areas living in slums and casual and contract workers of construction and building . They are low paid as the minimum wage rate of Odisha is one of the lowest in the country i.e Rs 345 per day. The social security provisions followed in Odisha is also one of the lowest in the country i.e Rs 500. The seasonal nature of employment, low wages and lack of social security are the major reasons for the distress migration of rural youths to other States having employment opportunities with a higher wage rate and social security provisions that matter for a dignified living. 

 

The SC and ST households are more in land, water and forest-based activities, but their traditional rights over resources have not been legally formalised as a result of which, though they are farmers, they do not have a right over the land as the SCs in coastal areas are largely sharecroppers and SC and ST tribal dominated areas have been cultivating land since generations are not yet recognised as owners of the land. The Forest Rights Act to ensure rights over forest land and other rights have been half heartedly implemented for STs and other traditional forest dwellers. It has been demanded that the Government ensures both homestead land  for all and agricultural land  for families engaged in agricultural activities and support them under schemes out of the SCSP and TSP budget for agricultural activities. This will boost production and generate employment. The share of ownership over productive assets such as land and capital will contribute to reducing inequality as well as be supportive to growth and employment.

 

In order to promote non-land based activities, there must be quality  education and skill development among SC and ST students. It is ideal for all the residential hostels of SC and ST students to be converted to English medium schools and modern skill development centers and the  funds for this purpose be allocated out of SCSP and TSP budgets.

 

 

(manasbbsr15@gmail.com)

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