There is a 14% increase in the budget allocation for ministry of social justice and empowerment and a 7.5% increase in that of tribal affairs ministry. The biggest increase has been in scholarship schemes for meritorious students from SCs, STs and OBCs across ministries indicating the government’s emphasis on education for vulnerable sections of society. The finance minister set the tone for the social sector push early in her budget as she said, “We wish to open up vistas for a vibrant and dynamic economy with a gentle breeze of new technology. This vibrant India shall be a caring society which shall attend to its weak, the old and the vulnerable among its citizens.”
Under ministry of social justice and empowerment, programmes that have seen the highest increase include pre matric scholarships for children of workers involved in manual scavenging (400%), fellowships for OBCs (71.4%) and overseas fellowships for OBCs (133%). The government has put a renewed thrust on fighting drug abuse, care of senior citizens and rehabilitation of beggars. While separate schemes involving assistance to NGOs caring for senior citizens and prevention of alcoholism and substance abuse have been phased out, the government has reworked them integrated national programmes have been framed. A national action plan for drug demand reduction with an allocation of Rs 260 crore has been introduced. A national action plan for senior citizens has also seen an increase of 400% in budget allocation from Rs 40 crore to Rs 200 crore.
The tribal affairs ministry has followed a similar pattern. The biggest increase has been in Eklavya Model Residential Schools programme, where the allocation has increased from Rs 0.31 crore last year to Rs 1313.23 crore. The enhanced allocation is in keeping with Modi government’s promise of setting up the premier residential schools in all tribal-dominated districts. Similarly, allocation for pre-matric and post matric scholarship for tribal students have also been increased – both by 17.7%.