The Government has undertaken a series of initiatives for social justice and empowerment. Ekatmakta, Samata and Samajik Samrasta are the guiding principles in this direction. This was stated by Thaawarchand Gehlot, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment while addressing a Press Conference on “Major Social Welfare Initiatives” to mark the Birth anniversary of Bharat Ratna Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar here today. Ramdas Athawale, Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment was also present.
Gehlot informed the media persons that 14 scholarship schemes for Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) / Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-nomadic Tribes (DNTs) students covering 3.54 crore students are under digital payment. All Scholarship amount are released to students’ bank account and there is 60% Aadhaar seeding in SC student bank account. Educational Empowerment for SCs is through scholarships, hostels for students, coaching facilities, capital for creation/upgradation of premises, institution etc.
The Government of India believes that Education for all is the key to empowerment. M/o SJE implements seven different types of scholarships, which include: Post and Pre-Matric Scholarships; Top Class Scholarship; National Overseas Scholarships; National Fellowship for Scheduled Castes administered by the UGC; Pre-Matric Scholarship for Children of those engaged in unclean occupations; Free Coaching for Scheduled Castes and OBCs (70: 30 ratio); and Upgradation of merit. Nearly 54 % of Budget of the M/o SJ&E is incurred on scholarships for Scheduled castes.
The Minister emphasized that the Government is committed for the social, economic and educational uplift of the Scheduled Castes and has therefore enunciated policies and schemes across different Ministries for targeted benefit and progress of the scheduled castes. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 has been amended and enforced with effect from 26.1.2016. It is now mandated that the trial for atrocities against SC/ST be completed within two months from the date of filing the charge sheet.
The amended Rules, 2016 under the Act came into effect from 14th April, 2016. Relief for new offences and existing offences has been enhanced. For the first time, offences of rape and gang-rape have been included. The relief amount has been increased to Rs. 8.25 lakhs in case of gang-rape and Rs. 5 lakhs in case of rape from the earlier amount of Rs. 1.20 lakh. Number of Exclusive Special Courts set up are 194. In 32 States/UTs, District Session Courts have been designated as Special Courts. Special Police Stations for registration of complaints of offenses against SCs and STs have been set up in five states i.e. Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh.
Referring to Skill Development and Entrepreneurship of SCs, Shri Gehlot said that the scheme of Venture Capital Fund for Scheduled Castes was launched in 2014-15 with unique feature of higher level of loans from Rs.50 lakhs to Rs.15 crores for SC entrepreneurs. Till date Loans amounting to Rs.236.66 crores to 65 Scheduled Caste entrepreneurs has been sanctioned in different areas including Solar Energy, Water treatment plants, Food processing and Beverages, Hotel etc. In 9 projects, beneficiaries have started repayment and the Scheme is also having multiplying effect on other SC entrepreneurs.
So far as the Skill Development is concerned, Training is undertaken by all State Governments under the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan and by National Scheduled Caste Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC), National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation (NSKFDC) and National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation (NBCFDC) given to 1.5 lakh beneficiaries from 2014-15 to 2016-17. 48.42% got wage/self-employment.
Gehlot said that under Entrepreneurship, over 17 lakh people have benefitted from subsidy given for loan taken for economic activities in the last three years under Scheduled Caste Sub Plan. Over 8.12 lakh beneficiaries have been given loans by the Corporations for entrepreneurships in the last three years.
He informed that a new scheme “Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana” has been launched recently for distribution of Aids and Assisted Living Devices to Senior Citizens, which will help them to overcome their age related physical impairment and to lead a dignified and productive life with minimal dependence on care givers or other members of the family. The ambitious Scheme, first of its kind in the country is expected to benefit 5,20,000 Senior Citizens over a period of the 3 years.
The Minister said that under the Special Central Assistance to Scheduled Caste Sub Plan Scheme, 100 % Grant to states is given for the uplift of Scheduled Caste below the poverty line. The assistance is utilized for providing subsidy of maximum Rs 10,000 per person on loan taken for economic activities. About 17 lakh people have benefitted from the subsidy component over last three years. Infrastructure in SC villages with 50 % population or more (solar lights, drinking water, roads etc. Under the scheme, funds are released for skill development of the Scheduled Castes.
He said that in memory of Dr. Ambedkar, his Ministry launched following three schemes in 2014-15: (1) Dr. Ambedkar Pre And Scholarship Scheme for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-nomadic Tribes (DNTs) for facilitating the nomadic community students to pursue education; (2) Dr. Ambedkar Post Matric Scholarship Scheme for Economically Backward Classes (EBCs) for providing assistance in form of scholarship to Economically Backward Classes students pursuing higher education; and (3) Dr. Ambedkar Interest Subsidy Scheme for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Economically Backward Classes (EBCs) to study abroad. The scheme aims to help the needy OBCs and EBCs students to pursue higher studies abroad.
Gehlot further said that under the Dr. Ambedkar Medical Aid Scheme, medical aid is provided to the patients suffering from serious ailments requiring surgery of kidney, heart, liver, cancer and brain or any other life threatening diseases including organ transplant and spinal surgery to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe persons whose annual family income is less than Rs 2,50,000/- p.a. During the last three years, 168 patients have been granted aid under the programme.
Referring to Dr. Ambedkar scheme for Social integration through Inter Caste Marriages, the Minister said that the objective of the scheme is to appreciate the socially bold step, of an inter-caste marriage, taken by the newly married couple and to extend financial incentive to the couple to enable them to settle down in the initial phase of the married life. An amount of Rs 5 lakhs is given to each couple, released in two installments. During the last three years, 121 couples have been provided aid under the programme.
He also informed that under Dr. Ambedkar Scheme for celebration of Birth/ Death Anniversaries of Great saints, grant-in-aid is provided to the recognized Colleges/Universities/Institutions and registered NGOs, which are in existence for at least two years, for celebrating birth anniversary of Great Saints who tirelessly worked for promoting social justice, removal of inequality & discrimination and for amelioration of the conditions of weaker sections of the society. During the last two years, grants have been released to 43 NGOs.
He said that the following places relating to Dr. Ambedkar such as Janam Bhoomi, Mhow, Shiksha Bhoomi 10, King Henry Road, London, Deeksha Bhoomi, Nagpur, Parinirvan Bhoomi, 26, Alipur Road, New Delhi and Chaitya Bhoomi, Dadar, Mumbai were declared ‘Panchtirth’ by the Government of India.
The Minister said that Dr. Ambedkar Foundation finalized a plan for developing prominent places associated with Dr. Ambedkar. An amount of Rs.1,36,000,00/- has been approved for development of Memorial at Mahad. Mahad Satyagraha was led by Dr. B.R.Ambedkar on 20th March, 1927 to allow downtrodden to use water from a public tank. An amount of Rs.4,36,90,685/- has been released to DM, Nagpur for Museum Building at Chincholi, Maharashtra.
He informed that the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan/Tribal Sub Plan has been implemented in its true spirit by the States/UTs and the Central Government. The allocation for the welfare of Scheduled Castes has been stepped up from Rs.38,833 crores in BE 2016-17 to Rs.52,393 crores in 2017-18, representing an increase of about 35%. Now, the monitoring and implementation of Scheduled Castes Sub Plan has been entrusted to the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.
Gehlot said that his Ministry provides one time assistance of Rs.40,000/- to manual scavengers to get them liberated from this inhuman practice and also provides them skill training & loans at lower rates for engaging them in alternative employment under Scheme of Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers. 11,598 people have been provided one time assistance of Rs.40,000/- and 13,827 people have initiated skill development training in the last three years.
He said that each branch of public sector banks has been assigned responsibility by the Finance Ministry to handhold at least one SC/ST youth, as an entrepreneur, to generate more employment among them.