Delhi Government favours the Rich, Dalits to pay the price

On 3 September, the Delhi government announced a cabinet decision to expand the Jai Bhim Mukhyamantri Pratibha Vikas Yojana to all students of all castes who have completed Class X or Class XII from Delhi. Previously a welfare policy targeting Scheduled Caste students preparing for competitive examinations, the scheme has now been opened to students of all castes with a family income less than Rs 8 lakh annually. The national average annual income in 2018 was Rs.1.13 lakh. This thus does not quite represent the economically weaker section of society as is stated by governments. According to the recent study titled ‘State of Working India’, 82% of male and 92% of female workers earn less than ₹10,000 a month. If a person earns more than ₹50,000 a month, that person is in the top 1% of the national work-force in terms of earnings. Thus fixing Rs. 8 lakh as the annual income criteria allows even the top 1% of the income strata to apply for this scheme.

The scheme was introduced last year to provide financial assistance to SC students and the maximum financial assistance provided to any student was ₹40,000. In its 2018-19 budget, the Delhi government allocated ₹40 crore for this scheme. If the entire fund were to be used as financial assistance, 10,000 students could be extended this benefit. But with the expansion of the scheme and the increase in the financial assistance per student to Rs 1 lakh, the allocated budget can now be extended only to 4,000 students and not necessarily those in need of this financial assistance.

Finally, this scheme was previously under the Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes Welfare Department as it was aimed at SC students. However, even with the expansion of the scheme to all students on the basis of an income criteria, the allocation will still come from the same department. This means funds that allocated for SC/ST welfare will now be diverted for the use of non-SC/ST persons.

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