SUMAN K SHRIVASTAVA
Ranchi, Feb 1: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has allocated Rs 12,414 crore for the tribal affairs ministry in Union Budget 2023-2024. This is at least one and half times more than the sum announced last year.
There has also been substantial hike in the Schedule Tribe component (STC) allocated to different Ministries for tribal welfare programmes relating to their respective scheme. It was pegged at Rs. 87,524 crores last year.
This is the last full budget of the Modi government before nine states go to the polls and the general elections next year. It is also the first budget in the Amrit Kaal.
The nine states — Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura-going to vote this year have a substantial tribal vote base. Two of these states, Chhattisgarh and Tripura, have more than 30 per cent tribal population, while three, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, account for over 85 percent of tribal population.
The BJP already has much at stake in certain poll-bound states. For instance, it needs to retain Madhya Pradesh, where the tribals form over 20 per cent of the total population, and Tripura, where too the tribals are key voters.
The BJP also faces a major challenge in Jharkhand where the ruling JMM has exercised all the tricks to retain its support base among the tribals.
Union Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda said that the budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is indeed the budget of Amrit Kaal.
Mission for primitive tribes
“For the first time, a Development Mission for primitive tribes will be launched to improve the socio-economic condition of tribal groups, so that the primitive tribes’ settlements can be equipped with basic facilities. Rs 15,000 crore will be made available to implement the scheme in the next 3 years,” he added.
The special package will provide support to the vulnerable tribes in the areas of health, clean water, sanitation, education, basic infrastructure and also empower them with sustainable livelihood opportunities.
Notably, there are 75 primitive tribes in the country with Jharkhand being home to eight such tribes with a population of over two lakhs. Their dwelling terrain and the practice of shifting cultivation have certainly created livelihood problems for them.
“Besides 38,800 teachers and support staff will be appointed in Eklavya Model Residential Schools in the next three years,” Munda pointed out. Around 3.5 lakh tribal students are currently enrolled under these schools.
“The government has also announced plans to launch a Mission to eliminate sickle cell anemia by 2047 for awareness generation, universal screening and counseling of 7 crore people in 0-40 years in affected tribal areas,” he added.
Sickle cell disease
Sickle cell disease (SCD), an inherited blood disorder, continues to remain a public health challenge in India. India is estimated to have the second-highest burden of SCD after Nigeria– it is estimated that there may be 18 million SCT and 1.4 million SCD patients among the tribal population.
According to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA), 1 in 86 births among the scheduled tribe has SCD. Jharkhand is a key region of the disease and has a prevalence rate of 8-10% for sickle cell anaemia and thalassemia, making it endemic. The state lacks any provisions for specialized care for SCD patients and are often treated like regular patients.
To promote entrepreneurship among the tribal population, the Centre announced a Venture Capital Fund for Scheduled Tribes in Budget 2022-2023. As a social sector initiative, the objective of the scheme is to promote entrepreneurship among the STs, who are oriented towards innovation and growth technologies.
The scheme aims to provide hand-holding support to new incubation ideas and start-up ideas by ST entrepreneurs.
Munda, however, disagreed that the budget provision for tribals has been hiked substantially to woo the tribals during elections. “For us, the development of tribals is a continuous mission,” he signed off.