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Budget 2023: Eye on polls, Modi govt allots Rs 15,000 cr for tribal development — 5x hike

Of nine states headed for polls this year, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland have over 85% tribal population, while two, Chhattisgarh and Tripura, have more than 30%.

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New Delhi: Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has allocated Rs 15,000 crore for tribal affairs in Union Budget 2023-2024. This is at least five times more than the sum announced last year.

The Modi government, which is the last full budget before nine states go to the polls and the general elections next year. It is also the first budget in the Amrit Kaal. With the schemes and announcements made today, the focus of the budget is the tribal population across states including the ones in the north east.

The tribal population is a key vote-bank for political parties this year, with assembly elections scheduled to be held in nine states — Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura.

Two of these states, Chhattisgarh and Tripura, have more than 30 per cent tribal population (Scheduled Tribes or STs), while three, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, account for over 85 per cent of tribal population.

The 2023-2024 Union Budget, which will be the last full budget for the current BJP-led government at the Centre, before 2024’s scheduled general elections, was widely expected to have sops and schemes for the tribals.

“To improve the social-economic condition of the particular tribal groups, PMPVTG(Prime Minister’s Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups) Development mission will be launched, to saturate PBTG habitations with basic facilities. Rs 15,000 cr to be made available to implement the scheme in next 3 years”, announced FM Nirmala Sitharaman.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman ahead of the Budget 2023 presentation | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht, ThePrint
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman ahead of the Budget 2023 presentation | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht| ThePrint

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 need to win the assembly elections was emphasised by BJP president J.P. Nadda at a meeting of party workers in January.

The party further needs to win over Chhattisgarh, which is currently under Congress rule. The state’s tribal population has previously voted for the Congress.

Also read: Adivasi identity, ST status, politics — what’s fuelling anti-Christian attacks in Chhattisgarh

Tribal outreach 

The BJP, as part of its tribal outreach efforts, has in the past few years announced schemes favouring the ST community.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced slew of measures and schemes for the upliftment of the tribal society and the population as a whole. The special package of Rs 15,000 crore for the Tribal Development Scheme 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, the FM said while presenting the budget.

Apart from the package, the FM has also announced recruitment of 38800 teachers and staff for the existing 740 Eklavya Model Residential Schools, meant for tribal students across the country. Around 3.5 lakh tribal students are currently enrolled under these schools. She announced a scheme for artisans. PM’s Vishwakarma Kaushal Vikash Scheme, a special assistance package is meant for the artisans. It will help them in enhancing their capacity and potential. It will help majorly the artisans coming from  the SC, ST, OBC communities and the weaker sections, the finance minister added. 

In the last Union Budget, Rs 2945.53 crore was announced for 16 centrally-run schemes and programmes across states for tribals.

Of this sum, Rs 2,000 crore was allocated to the Eklavya Model Residential Schools, for tribal students who want to pursue higher studies.

The Centre had also launched the Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana at the Union level in 2014, when the Modi government first came to power. The scheme had first been kicked off in Gujarat in 2007 by Modi when he was the Chief minister.

Under the scheme, which aims to translate the available resources into overall development of STs, financial assistance is provided to state governments through a mode of options to reduce their financial burden and provide better access to education to tribal children.

To promote entrepreneurship among the tribal population, the Centre announced 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. It further provides concessional finance to such entrepreneurs who will create wealth and value for society and at the same time promote profitable businesses.

(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)

Also read: Lesson learned from 2018, BJP ramping up Dalit & tribal outreach in MP to counter Bhim Army buzz

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