By Sidhartha Dutta
The allocation for a Centre-sponsored tribal welfare scheme launched in 2014 has come down to a mere Rs 1 crore ($154,000) in 2016-17 from Rs 200 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 100 crore in 2014-15, according to an RTI reply that also indicates that the lion's share of the allocations went to BJP-ruled tribal states while Congress-ruled states were ignored.
The Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana (VKY) was launched in 2014 by the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs for overall development of the country's estimated 60 million tribal population, the indigenous people.
It was included as a Central Sector Scheme in the ministry's annual plan with an initial allocation of Rs 100 crore for 2014-15.
However, the then Congress-ruled states of Meghalaya, Manipur (both predominantly tribal states), Congress-ruled Karnataka and Uttarakhand (which then had a Congress-led government) don't feature in the list provided by the ministry.
Among the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-ruled states that did not feature in the list are Goa, Haryana and Punjab (then ruled by SAD-BJP alliance). The last two don't have any tribal population.
Andhra Pradesh received Rs 10 crore in 2014-15 and Rs 5 crore in 2015-16. Arunachal Pradesh got not even a penny in 2014-15 while in 2015-16 it got Rs 6 crore.
Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal received no funds under the scheme in 2014-15. However, in 2015-16, Tamil Nadu received Rs 7 crore, Uttar Pradesh Rs 2 crore and West Bengal Rs 2.45 crore.
Assam and Bihar too did not receive any amount in 2014-15, while in 2015-16, they got Rs 8.52 crore and Rs. 7.6 crore, respectively.
BJP-ruled states got the lion's share under the Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana. Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan were allocated Rs 10 crore each in 2014-15.
In 2015-16, Chhattisgarh received Rs 13.84 crore, Gujarat got Rs 17.23 crore, Jharkhand Rs 13.44 crore, Madhya Pradesh Rs 19.09 crore, Maharashtra's share was Rs 14 crore and Rajasthan got Rs 10.46 crore.
On the other hand, Himachal Pradesh was allocated Rs 10 crore in 2014-15 while it received a zero sum in 2015-16.
Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala too did not receive any amount in 2014-15. In 2015-16, J&K and Kerala got Rs 5 crore and Rs 3 crore lakh , respectively.
Odisha got Rs 10 crore in 2014-15 and Rs 16.50 crore in 2015-16.
Other northeastern states like Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura -- all of which have substantial tribal populations -- received no funds in 2014-15. However, in 2015-16, Mizoram got Rs 4.95 crore, Nagaland received Rs 7.66 crore, Sikkim Rs 3.82 crore and Tripura Rs 6.13 crore.
Telangana, meanwhile, got Rs 10 crore in 2014-15 and in 2015-16, it was allocated Rs 42.7 crore.
Stressing that the Adivasis were in bad shape, Congress President Rahul Gandhi had attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi before the Gujarat election last year and asked: "Where did the Rs 55,000 crore meant for the Vanbandhu scheme go?"
This was Gandhi's 10th question as part of a Congress strategy wherein he would put one question daily to Modi ahead of the Gujarat Assembly polls. He had apparently got his figures wrong.
"Neglect left Adivasi society in tatters, Modiji, where did Rs 55,000 crore for the Vanbandhu scheme go?" Gandhi had asked.
(Sidhartha Dutta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)