Andhra Pradesh Dalits and Adivasis marching towards achieving Statutory Status for SCP and TSP

Karthik Navayan

SC, ST Sub-Plan Nidhula Saadhana Ikya Kaaryacharana Committee (United Action Committee to claim SC, ST Sub-Plan Funds) was formed under the leadership of Sri Kaki Madhava Rao, Former Chief Secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh as its chairman and Retired Justice K. Ramaswamy as adviser. Retired IAS Officers Sri B. Danam, Sri K.R. Venu Gopal, Sri T. Gopal Rao and Retired IPS Officers Sri Rushya Rao, Dr. D. T. Nayak, Dr. V. N. V. K. Sastri are some of the important persons as its members. National Dalit Forum, Sakshi Human Rights Watch- A P and Center for Dalit Studies have come together to provide secretarial assistance to the committee.

The Committee has brought together nearly 100 people's organizations and NGOs under its fold. The core committee constituted a drafting committee to draft the bill to provide statutory status to SCP and TSP. The drafting committee consisted of Sri K. Madhava Rao, Sri B.Danam, Sri V.Nanda Gopal, Mr. R.Ravi Kumar. The Drafting committee met several times to articulate the bill. The salient features of the Bill are:

  1. The population equivalent share of the total plan in each year should be set apart before allotting funds to various departments and shall be voted along with the general budget of the state.
  2. The funds thus set apart for SCP and TSP shall be kept at the disposal of a statutory authority meant for SCs and STs separately. The authority is all powerful to design and finalise the programs and schemes to be undertaken with the SCP and TSP funds. The authority is also empowered to monitor the best utilization of schemes and programs.
  3. The funds under SC ST Special Component are non-lapsable and non-divertible.
  4. Penal provisions: Any functionary of the Government who is responsible to prepare the Special Component plan for SCs & STs, as a part of the preparation of the Annual Budget of the State willfully fails to do so;
  5. And any functionary of the Government who is responsible to approve and place annual Budget before the Legislative Assembly fails to earmark for the exclusive benefit of SCs and STs funds in proportion to the their population to the total population of the State;
  6. And any functionary of the Government who is responsible to prepare and implement schemes under SCSP and STP fails to do so;
  7. And any functionary of the Government who is responsible to release funds fails to do so in time;
  8. And any functionary of the Government who is responsible for diversion of SCSP and STP funds to other schemes; shall be deemed to have committed an offence under Section 4 of the SC/ST (PoA) Act.

The state level committee has formed committees in all districts in the state, by bringing together people's organisations in each district. In the same lines several Assembly Constituency level committees, Mandal level committees and 600 village level committees were formed to create awareness among the common people and to take part in the struggle.

Several public meetings were organized by these committees and raised the awareness levels on SCP and TSP and the way the Central Government and State governments have miss-appropriated funds.

The State level core committee has met all the leaders of political parties and took their consent to support the movement both inside and outside the State Legislative Assembly.

The state level committee gave a call for 3 days protest on 23rd , 24th and 25th followed by Chalo Assembly on 26th March. The protest was organized at Indira Park, "Dharna Chowk" in Hyderabad.

11 leaders from various political parties and people's organisations were on 72 hour hunger strike. Several Dalit, Adivasi, Bahujan leaders from different parts of the state joined the hunger strike on daily basis, in solidarity with those who are on 72 hour hunger strike. Leaders from different people's organization, activists, leaders from different political parties, NGOs, people's organizations, Human Rights Groups have visited the Dharna Chowk and expressed their solidarity to the hunger strike. 

In response to the Chalo Assembly Call given by SC, ST Sub-Plan Nidhula Saadhana Ikya Kaaryacharana Committee, about 30,000 people from different parts of Andhra Pradesh had reached Indira Park, Hyderabad on 26th March 2012. A public meeting was organized at 10 a.m. before proceeding to Assembly. Leaders of all political parties have participated in this meeting and expressed support and solidarity.

Shri Jaya Prakash Narayan-President Lok Satha, Shri B.V Raghavulu-Secretary Communist Party of India (Marxist), Shri Gunda Mallesh-MLA Communist Party of India, Sri Chandra Sekhar-Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Shri Dr. B. Lakshman-BJP, Shri Nalla Surya Praksh-YSR Congress Party and Shri Chandra Babu Naidu-President Telugu Desham Party are some of the prominent political leaders who personally came to the Dharna Chowk and spoke in support of the cause.

When the activists and leaders of The Schedule Castes & Schedule Tribes Sub-Plan Funds Release Action Committee tried to proceed towards the Assembly, the police put up barricades and prevented protesters from proceeding towards the State Legislative Assembly. The police arrested several Dalit, Adivasi leaders and activists.

In the meanwhile, the representatives of Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister have come for talks with the Committee to withdraw the Chalo assembly programme. But the committee declared that Chalo Assembly will continue at any cost until the Chief Minister himself makes an announcement before media about the state government's decision to agree to all the demands.

Under pressure from different quarters, the Chief Minister announced that the government is deciding to form a sub-committee for considering providing statutory status to SCP and TSP, conduct two-day state assembly session exclusively to discuss about SCP and TSP, constitute a Cabinet Sub-Committee, consult the Planning Commission of India. He requested the protesters to withdraw the protests.

In Andhra Pradesh Dalit and Adivasi organisations have been campaigning for the last decade for proper implementation of SCP and TSP. National Dalit Forum, Sakshi Human Rights Watch and other civil society organisations have been consistently involved in studies, trainings, workshops and advocacy. In fact National Dalit Forum (NDF) also initiated similar efforts in other states such as Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and other states. NDF also played pivotal role in introducing a private bill in Rajya Sabha in on 9th December 2011 for securing Statutory Status to SCP and TSP in collaboration with several Dalit, Adivasi organisations, and political leaders.

Another unique feature in Andhra Pradesh is that the several unions and associations of SC and ST employees actively participated in the campaign for proper implementation of SCP and TSP. As a result of such united and sustained efforts of Dalits and Adivasis from different sections, Andhra Pradesh is the first state to announce several steps for proper implementation of SCP and TSP including providing statutory status to SCP and TSP.

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Update: Since the Andhra Chief Minister announced his government's decision to constitute a sub-committee for considering the provision of statutory status to SCP and TSP, Dalit, Adivasi and other activists and leaders have been expressing their appreciation of the move. Featuring here, one such letter expressing appreciation for the AP Government's decision from Dalit Adhikar Manch, Bihar:

To

Sri. N. Kiran Kumar Reddy ji

Chief Minister

Andhra Pradesh

From

Dalit Adhikar Manch

Bihar

Respected sir,

On behalf of Dalit Adhikar Manch, Bihar (DAM, Bihar - A state level Network of Dalit Civil Society Organizations) we would like to congratulate you for the historic announcement made by you in the Legislative Assembly of AP regarding the Special Component Plan for Scheduled Castes and Tribal Sub-Plan for Tribes. We are sure that you will remain in the history of India as the first Chief Minister in the country who has taken appropriate steps to materialize the vision of Mrs. Indira Gandhi.

At this juncture, we want to inform you that Dalit Adhikar Manch has been part of advocacy with several MPs for proper implementation of SCP and TSP at national level and state level. We are happy to mention here that Smt. Sonia Gandhi, as chair-person of National Advisory Council, has already communicated to the Planning Commission of India to consider statutory status to SCP and TSP. We are very happy that you are moving in the same line.

Certainly, as a Chief Minister you are a role model for others in the country. In Bihar, we will meet the Chief Minister and MLAs and explain about the historical decision taken by you in Andhra Pradesh and persuade him to take similar initiatives.

As you mentioned in your speech yesterday, SCP and TSP is one of the most important instruments for the empowerment of Dalits and Tribals in the country, which has been also the most neglected policy guidance of Government of India.

We are sure that the sub-committee to be constituted for this purpose will take cognizance of the various aspects that led to the non- implementation of the policy and take measures to ensure that the policy will be implemented as desired by Mrs. Indira Gandhi.

We are also sure that you will continue to take necessary steps to empower the Dalits and Tribals in your state.

Once again, we congratulate you for the steps initiated by you for proper implementation of SCP and TSP in Andhra Pradesh and wish you great success in all your efforts.

With best wishes.

Dalit Adhikar Manch.

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News reports in the media that talk about the agitation and the government's response:

(1)

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 (2)

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(3)

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(4)

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(5)

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[Courtesy: Karthik Navayan's blog