Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these Schemes
Vulnerable Sections of the population
The process of identifying vulnerable groups within the health and human right generated from the pressing reality on the ground that stemmed from the fact that there are certain groups who are vulnerable and marginalized lacking full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, including rights to political participation, health and education.
Vulnerability within the right to health framework means deprivation of certain individuals and groups whose rights have been violated from the exercising agency. Certain groups in the society often encounter discriminatory treatment and need special attention to avoid potential exploitation. This population constitutes what is referred to as Vulnerable Groups.
Vulnerable groups are disadvantaged as compared to others mainly on account of their reduced access to medical services and the underlying determinants of health such as safe and potable drinking water, nutrition, housing, sanitation etc. For example, persons with disabilities often don’t get employment or adequate treatment or people living with HIV/AIDS, face various forms of discrimination that affects their health and reduces their access to health services.
In India there are multiple socio-economic disadvantages that members of particular groups experience which limits their access to health and healthcare. The task of identifying the vulnerable groups is not an easy one. Besides there are multiple and complex factors of vulnerability with different layers and more often than once it cannot be analysed in isolation.
Some of the prominent factors on the basis of which individuals or members of groups are discriminated in India, are, structural factors, age, disability, mobility, stigma and discrimination that act as barriers to health and healthcare. The vulnerable groups that face discrimination include Women, Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Children, Aged, Disabled, Poor migrants, People living with HIV/AIDS and Sexual Minorities. Sometimes each group faces multiple barriers due to their multiple identities. For example, in a patriarchal society, disabled women face double discrimination of being a women and being disabled.
Structural norms are attached to the different relationships between the subordinate and the dominant group in every society. A group’s status may for example, be determined on the basis of gender, ethnic origin, skin colour, etc. The norms act as structural barriers giving rise to various forms of inequality.
In India, members of gender, caste, class, and ethnic identity experience structural discrimination that impact their health and access to healthcare. Women face double discrimination being members of specific caste, class or ethnic group apart from experiencing gendered vulnerabilities. Women have low status as compared to men in Indian society. They have little control on the resources and on important decisions related to their lives.
In India, early marriage and childbearing affects women’s health adversely. About 28 per cent of girls in India, get married below the legal age and experience pregnancy. These have serious repercussions on the health of women. Maternal mortality is very high in India. The average maternal mortality ratio at the national level is 540 deaths per 100,000 live births.
It varies between states and regions, i.e., rural-urban. The rural MMR (Maternal Mortality Rate) is 617 deaths of women age between 15-49 years per one lakh live births as compared to 267 maternal deaths per one lakh live births among the urban population. In most cases the deaths occur from preventable causes. A large proportion of women are reported to have received no antenatal care.
Caste in Indian society is a particular form of social inequality that involves a hierarchy of groups ranked in terms of ritual purity where members who belong to a particular group or stratum share some awareness of common interest and a common identity. The caste system is linked to the possession of natural resources, livelihood resources and in the Indian context also to land economy and land based power relations.
Traditionally, caste relations were based on the hierarchy of occupations where work related to leather, cleaning dead cattle from village grounds, work related to funeral ceremonies, etc were placed at the bottom. People or castes who were performing the task of eliminating the polluted elements from society were considered ‘untouchables’ vis-à-vis the Brahmins who were highest in the order based on the purity-impurity principle.
Structurally the lower castes were economically dependent on the higher castes for existence. The Scheduled Caste (lower castes) remained economically dependent, politically powerless and culturally subjugated to the upper caste. This impacted their overall lifestyle and access to food, education and health
Backward Classes Welfare
The Government classifies some of the citizens based on their social and economic condition as Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST), and Other Backward Class (OBC). The OBC list presented by the National Commission for Backward Classes is dynamic (castes and communities can be added or removed) and is subject to change from time to time depending on social, educational and economic factors. For example, the OBCs are entitled to 27 % reservations in public sector employment and higher education.
In the Constitution, OBCs are described as ‘socially and educationally backward classes’, and the government is enjoined to ensure their social and educational development. The population of OBCs below poverty line was 22.6% in rural area and 15.4% in urban area whereas the population of SCs was 31.5% and 21.7% in rural and urban area respectively and the population of ST was 45.3% in rural area and 24.1% in urban area as per the poverty estimate released by the Planning Commission on the basis of Household Consumer Expenditure Survey undertaken by NSSO, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation during 2011-12.
The Backward Classes Division in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment looks after the policy, planning and implementation of programmes related to social and economic empowerment of OBCs. It also looks after matters relating to two institutions set up for the welfare of OBCs: National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation (NBCFDC) and the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).
Schedule Class Welfare in India
Various scholarships are provided to the students belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SCs) to ensure that education is not denied due to the poor financial condition of their families. These Scholarships are provided at both pre-matric and post-matric levels. Scholarships are also provided to SC students for obtaining higher education in India and abroad, including premier educational institutions.
National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC):
To finance income generating activities of Scheduled Caste beneficiaries living below double the poverty line limits (presently Rs 98,000/- per annum for rural areas and Rs 1,20,000/- per annum for urban areas). NSFDC assists the target group by way of refinancing loans, skill training, Entrepreneurship Development Programmes and providing marketing support through State Channelizing Agencies, RRBs, Public Sector Bank and Other Institutions.
National Safai Karamcharis:
It is another corporation under the Ministry which provides credit facilities to beneficiaries amongst Safai Karamcharis, manual scavengers and their dependants for income generating activities for socio-economic development through State Channelizing Agencies.
Special Central Assistance (SCA) to Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan (SCSP):
It is a policy initiative for development of Scheduled Castes in which 100 % assistance is given as an additive to SCSP of the States/ UTs on the basis of certain criteria such as SC population of the States/UTs, relative backwardness of States/UTs, percentage of SC families in the States/ UTs covered by composite economic development programmes in the State Plan to enable them to cross the poverty line, etc.
It is an umbrella strategy to ensure flow of targeted financial and physical benefits from all the general sectors of development for the benefit of Scheduled Castes. Under this Scheme, the States /UTs are required to formulate and implement Special Component Plan (SCP) for Scheduled Castes as part of their annual plans by earmarking resources
Scheme of Assistance to Scheduled Castes Development Corporations (SCDCs):
There are in total 27 such State-level Corporations which are working for the economic development of Scheduled Castes, although some of these Corporations are also catering to the requirements of other weaker sections of the Society, e.g. Scheduled Tribes, OBCs, Minorities etc.
Venture Capital Fund for Scheduled Castes:
The objective of the fund is to promote entrepreneurship amongst the Scheduled Castes who are oriented towards innovation and growth technologies and to provide concessional finance to the scheduled caste entrepreneurs.
Credit Enhancement Guarantee Scheme for Scheduled Castes:
The objective of this Scheme is to provide credit guarantee facility to Young and start-up entrepreneurs, belonging to Scheduled Castes, who aspire to be part of neo middle class category, with an objective to encourage entrepreneurship in the lower strata of the Society resulting in job creation besides creating confidence in Scheduled Castes. The Scheme has been launched on 06.05.2015. Initially, Rs.200 Crore has been released under the Scheme to IFCI Limited, which is a Nodal agency to implement it.
The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955: In pursuance of Article 17 of the Constitution of India, the Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1955 was enacted and notified on 08.05.1955. Subsequently, it was amended and renamed in the year 1976 as the “Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955”. Rules under this Act, viz “The Protection of Civil Rights Rules, 1977” were notified in 1977. The Act extends to the whole of India and provides punishment for the practice of untouchability.
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989:
Assistance is provided to States/ UTs for implementation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Financial assistance is provided to the States/ UTs for implementation of these Acts, by way of relief to atrocity victims, incentive for inter-caste marriages, awareness generation, setting up of exclusive Special courts, etc.
Backward Classes Welfare
New Swarnima Special Scheme for Women
The Objective of this scheme is to inculcate the spirit of self-dependence among the eligible Women of Backward Classes living below the poverty line. The women belonging to Backward classes as notified by the Central/ State Governments from time to time shall be eligible for loan under this scheme.
Pre-matric Scholarship for OBC Students
Even after 51 years of independence and in spite of various measures taken to improve the level of education in the country, literacy levels among backward classes, particularly among women, continues to be extremely low. The number of steps have already been taken by the Government and considerable progress has been achieved in improving the level of literacy and education, but there is still a long way to go before respectable levels of literacy are achieved, It has been recognized now that education and economic support for backward Classes has not been adequate and there is disparity between them and the non-backward sections of the population at every level.
In view of the same, it is felt that earnest efforts are required to introduce various new schemes specifically for these target group i.e. backward classes to provide them a level playing field in comparison to non-backward sections of the population.
The position of women in terms of literacy among OBCs population is also a cause of concern. Considering the important role of women in shaping the size of the family and outlook of its members, investment in improving education among women of these communities will not only improve their social and economic status, but will also help in accelerating the socio-economic development of these communities and the nation as a whole.
Experience shows that children of OBCs from the poorer section to not go schools as they often have to provide a helping hand to their parents in traditional occupation or otherwise supplement the family income. It is considered that a scheme of Pre-matric Scholarship would be helpful in spreading education amongst such children specially amongst the girl child of weaker sections.
A scheme of Pre-matric Scholarship for the benefit of children belonging to Weaker Section amongst OBCs has been formulated with the object in view.
Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Construction of Hostel for OBC Boys and Girls
The Centrally-sponsored Scheme for Construction of Hostels for OBC Boys and Girls is being implemented since 1998-99 to address the problem of educational backwardness of OBCs. Very often, students from rural areas, especially those belonging to the weaker sections, discontinue their studies because of lack of secondary schools and colleges nearby and non-availability of adequate hostel facilities, at a reasonable cost, at places where such educational institutions are located.
Therefore, the Scheme was initiated with a view to facilitate continuation of education by students belonging to OBCs, especially those hailing from rural and remote areas and from poor families. Since the inception of the Scheme, upto 2009-10, Central assistance for construction of 811 hostels for OBC students has been sanctioned.
The funding pattern for construction of hostels under the scheme provided for cost sharing between the Central and State Governments in the ratio of 50:50, with 100% funding to UTs and Central Government Institutions like Central Universities.
Assistance to Voluntary Organizations for Welfare of OBCs
The programme of giving grant-in-aid to Voluntary Organizations under the Backward Classes sector has been taken up by the Govt. of India during the Ninth Five Year Plan. The main purpose behind the scheme of grant-in-aid to voluntary organisation for taking up welfare activities among the OBCs is, to improve the educational and socio-economic conditions of these communities through voluntary efforts.
The aim of the scheme is to involve the voluntary sector to improve educational and socio- economic conditions of the target group i.e. OBCs, with a view to upgrade skill to enable them to start income generating activities on their own or get gainfully employed in some sector or the other. The principle that good voluntary organisations should not only be assisted but also consciously built up, has been the guiding spirit behind the formulation of the scheme.
Assistance under the scheme will be given to eligible voluntary organisations fulfilling the eligibility conditions laid down as under:-
In order to be eligible for assistance under this scheme, an Organisation should have the following characteristics:
1. It is a registered body under an appropriate Act so that it gets a corporate status and a legal personality and a group liability is established for its activities.
2. It has an appropriate administrative structure and a duly constituted managing / executive committee.
3. The aims and objects of the organisation and programmes in fulfillment of those aims and objects are precisely laid down ;
4. The organisation is initiated and governed by its own members on democratic principles, without any external control ; and
5. It should not run for profit to any individual or body of individuals.