It is the right of every weaker section of society to get their due and up the social ladder. To ensure the empowerment of socially weaker sections, governments follow different approaches including hand-outs. Hand-out approach does help to an extent but it can’t achieve the desired goal solely. Education, economic opportunities, skill development, legal safeguards all put together help to achieve the empowerment of marginalised. This inclusive approach is visible in Modi government’s policy on social justice in these four years.
Model of Empowerment
People belonging to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe, Minorities and Divyangs (differently abled) have got major boost from various measures of this government. Before discussing all these in parts, let’s outline the focus points of this government in social justice and empowerment model.
- Budgetary allocation of both the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and Ministry of Minority Affairs have increased.
- Socially backward communities are the major beneficiaries of many flagship programmes of this government, be it Mudra or UJJWALA or Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.
- Scholarship and other educational facilities for these communities also increased under this government.
- Stronger legislative measures have been implemented for these communities. For example- The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015, Bill to ban triple talaq.
- Increased policy focus on neglected community of differently abled people also known as Divyangs.
Allocation of Resources
Budgetary allocation to SC/ST has seen constant increase under the Modi government. The allocation for Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes increased by over 12% compared to 2017-18 to Rs 95,000 crores in the budget of 2018-19. The allocation for Scheduled Castes increased to Rs 56,619 crores while the allocation for Scheduled Tribes increased to Rs 39,185 crores.
Year 2018-19 has witnessed a record of 41% rise in the allocation to OBC welfare as compare to 2017-18.
When it comes to allocation for Minorities, there has been a consistent increase in allocation over the years, from Rs 3734 crores in 2014-15 to Rs 4700 crores in 2018-19.
Education for Empowerment
Education is the first step that empowers any marginalised person to achieve equality. Under this government scholarship amount to students belonging to these communities has increased. Also, the threshold of scholarship increased in many instances to extend this facility to more students from these communities.
- For the Pre-Matric Scholarship for OBC, the income eligibility has been increased from Rs 44,500 per annum to Rs. 2.5 lakh per annum.
- For Pre-Matric Scholarship for SC, the income eligibility raised from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakhs.
- Stipend for day scholars has raised from Rs. 150 to Rs. 225 and for hostelers it raised from Rs. 350 to Rs 525. Top Class Education for Scheduled Castes raised from Rs. 4.5 lakh to Rs 6 lakh per annum.
- For Free coaching for SC and OBC students, the income eligibility raised from Rs. 4.5 lakhs to Rs 6 lakhs. Stipend raised from Rs 1500 Rs 2500 for local students and from Rs 3000 to Rs 5000 for outstation students.
In minority empowerment also, the present government emphasis is much on education. In January 2016, Modi government abolished Haj subsidy resulting in Rs 700 crores savings. It is announced that this amount will be used to finance the education of Muslim girls. A number of schemes are already in place to help Muslim education such as Maulana Azad National Fellowship, Padho Pardes, Free Coaching and Allied scheme, Nai Udaan etc.,
Social Justice through Economic Empowerment
Apart from jobs, this government’s focus is to boost entrepreneurship to secure employment and livelihood. This has been very much evident when it comes to empowering SC/ST and other marginalised communities. Making the people of the community job creators, not merely job seekers is one of the mottos of the government. Let’s see the examples in this regard.
Stand Up India:
58,592 loans are sanctioned to the tune of Rs 12,709 crore under Stand Up India programme. This scheme, launched in April 2016, promotes entrepreneurship among SC/STs and women by providing loans in the range of Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore.
Venture Capital Fund:
63 companies have been approved of Rs 239.12 crores for Scheduled Caste Entrepreneurs, as on May 2018. The scheme was launched in January 2015 with the initial capital of Rs 200 crore to promote entrepreneurship among the scheduled castes.
Now, a Venture Capital Fund for OBCs on similar lines to be launched. Rs 140 crore has been provided for it in 2018-19.
Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana gives collateral free loans small entrepreneurs. More than 12.84 crore small and medium entrepreneurs have received funding so far and the share of SC/ST and OBC communities is remarkable here.
Of total loan accounts SC/ST and OBC are 50% and women constitute 70% of total beneficiaries. Lending target under the MUDRA Yojana enhanced to Rs 3 lakh crore for the 2018-19 fiscal.
The trend in first two years of Mudra with regard to marginalised community shows some salient features. Out of the total number of beneficiaries in 2015-16 and 2016-17, SC/ST/ OBC share was 54.84%. The following observations in this time period (2015-17) gives us a perspective as to how Mudra helped the cause of social justice.
- While SCs make up 16.63% of the total population of India, they make up 17.77% of the overall MUDRA beneficiaries.
- 39% of MUDRA’s beneficiaries are minorities, which means almost a crore of them have benefited from MUDRA. Comparatively, they make up 19.40% of India’s population.
Apart from this, National SC/ST Hub was established on October 2016, with an initial allotment of Rs 490 crore for the period 2016-20 to promote SC/ST entrepreneurs by strengthening market access/ linkage, monitoring, capacity-building, leveraging financial support schemes and sharing industry best practices etc. There is Green Business Scheme loan for unit cost up to Rs 1 lakh at concessional rates of interest are provided to SCs for eco-friendly employment, such as e-rickshaws, solar pumps and solar energy-powered implements, poly house, etc.,
Providing Market to Tribal Products:
In order to deliver social justice, Modi government has made an evident emphasis on expanding marketing opportunities to Tribal community. It is not just about connecting them to market but to amend rules that benefit the community.
National Bamboo Mission may perhaps a perfect example for this. There are an estimated 20 million people involved in bamboo-related activities, mostly from the tribal population. The current government first amended the 90-year-old “Indian Forest Act of 1927” and the amendment has exempted bamboo grown in non-forest land from the Forest Act. It was followed with the announcement of “National Bamboo Mission” in Budget 2018-19 with the allocation of Rs 1,290 crore.
14 new items were added to Minor Forest Produces (MFP) and freedom has been given to the states for fixing the MSP 10% above or below the MSP rate decided by the Union Ministry. In September 2017, TRIFED (Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited) signed an MoU with Amazon to sell tribal products.
Economic Empowerment of Muslims:
USTAAD scheme boosting skill of craftsmen, weavers and artisans who are already engaged in traditional ancestral work. Under Nai Manzil, 69,840 trainees have been allocated for education and skill training in 22 States in 2016-17 and 30,160 trainees have been allocated during 2017-18. Through Garib Nawaz Skill Development Centres Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF) has allocated 1,06,600 beneficiaries to 108 Program Implementing Agencies (PIAs). 212 centres have already commenced training programmes.
Hunar Haat exhibitions were conducted to promote the traditional arts/crafts practised by minority communities (Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains, and Buddhists) and provide them with an opportunity to establish national and global market linkages.
Social Justice Through Legislative Measures
- With ‘The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015’ the government has ensured more stringent provisions to prevent and to punish atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It has ensured speedy justice and better compensation to victims.
- Bill that empowers Muslim Women passed by Lok Sabha on December 2017. Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, which seeks to ban instant triple talaq and will lead to imprisonment of up to three years and fine.
- The bill to give constitutional status to the OBC Commission tabled in the parliament.
Honouring Dr Ambedkar
Dr B R Ambedkar is the icon of social justice. Perhaps, no other government has done so much in remembering and honouring the memory of Dr B R Ambedkar like the Modi government in these four years. The fact that Narendra Modi is only the second Prime Minister to visit Chaitya Bhoomi in the last few decades is also not hard to miss.
- The government has decided to develop five places as “Panchteerth” in honour of Dr Ambedkar. These include his birthplace in Mhow, the place in London where he stayed while studying in the UK, Deeksha Bhoomi in Nagpur, Mahaparinirvan Sthal in Delhi, and Chaitya Bhoomi in Mumbai.
- On March 2016, Prime Minister Modi laid the foundation stone for the Dr B.R. Ambedkar National Memorial, to be built at 26, Alipur Road in Delhi, the place of his Mahaparinirvan. The memorial has been inaugurated on April 13 this year, a day before Dr Ambedkar’s birth anniversary. The point to note here, for students of history, is that several decades after Independence, during which other governments had been in office, nobody had managed to set up this memorial.
- The PM laid the foundation stone at the Ambedkar International Centre in Delhi and inaugurated it in December 2017
- On November 19, 2015, the government declared November 26 Constitution Day, in honour of Dr Ambedkar
- In November 2015, during his trip to the UK, PM Modi, along with the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, inaugurated the B.R. Ambedkar memorial in London. This too was a significant feat, as the Maharashtra government had purchased Dr Ambedkar’s house in London in September 2015
- The current government has been connecting Dr Ambedkar to today’s youth in more than one way. Bharat Interface for Money is perhaps a big step towards both a digital and less-cash India. BHIM app is named after Dr Ambedkar. Inaugurating the Maritime India Summit in April 14, 2016, the PM had recalled Dr Ambedkar as “the architect of the water and river navigation policy in India”, which is an area of his work which has not been noticed enough.
Bringing Divyangs into Social Justice Picture
Differently abled persons were long neglected community in India. The government has implemented many inclusive policy measures to secure social justice for Divyangs.
Accessible India Campaign:
Launched on December 2015, it aims to to make at least 50 percent of all government buildings in the national capital and all state capitals “fully accessible” for the disabled by December 2018.
- Access Audit of 1662 buildings in 50 cities completed till date.
- All 34 International Airports and all 48 Domestic Airports have been provided with accessible features viz. Ramps, Accessible Toilets, lifts with Braille symbols and auditory signals.
- 644 out of 709 A1, A, B, category Railway Stations and 12894 buses out of 1,41,572 buses have been provided with accessibility features.
- 917 identified websites of State Governments/UTs are in the process of being made accessible through ERNET India
Reservation & other benefits:
- Reservations for Divyangs in Govt. jobs rose from 3% to 4%.
- Over 6lakh Divyang-jan have so far benefitted from 5790 camps organized across the country since May 2014
- Distribution of Aids and Assistive devices to 8 lakh persons with disabilities
- Saksham scholarship scheme launched in November 2014 helps differently abled students to pursue technical education. Rs. 30,000 is provided towards tuition fee reimbursement and Rs. 20000 as contingency allowance.
- Under Nirmay Yojana, Rs one lakh health insurance cover to people with autism, cerebral palsy and many disabilities
Legislative Measures for Divyangs:
The Right of Persons with Disability Act 2016 ensures the following.
- Types of disabilities have been increased from existing 7 to 21
- Speech and Language Disability and Specific Learning Disability have been added for the first time
- Acid Attack Victims have been included
- Right to free education for children with disabilities of 6-18 years and Reservation of 4% seats for students with disabilities in Govt. and Govt. aided higher education institutions.
- Penalties for offences committed against persons with Disabilities (PwDs)
Thus, the measures of social justice under the Modi government are all- encompassing and on a large canvas. Even the flagship programmes of this government have been benefitting weaker sections of the society majorly as a natural progression. It is estimated that almost 30% of Ujjwala beneficiaries are Dalits, over 20 % of the 31 cr Jan-Dhan bank account holders are Dalits to name a few. Four years of this government, thus, providing a meaningful inclusion picture which is beyond the mere hand-out model.