Political vendetta for public welfare
TO the political detractors, the Ministry of tribal affairs’ move for instituting investigations to establish whether or not funds allocated for various welfare projects of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes communities were judiciously utilised, could ostensibly be not only to uncover subversive activities, if any, but also to actually harass and undermine those with differing views. Contrary to such perceptions, the underprivileged section of the society would certainly welcome the Union government’s decision to undertake the rigorous campaign for rounding up or expose dissenters, as effectively execution of the probe process would be helpful in streamlining the fund distribution system and maintain transparency in their utilisation, in addition to sending a clear message that penalties are imminent for those who loot the public money under the pretext of safeguarding the downtrodden communities. It is but natural for a new government to pursue policies for overhauling certain mechanisms adopted by the predecessor. Political organisations, which suffered electoral defeats may liken political vendetta as witch-hunting, but to the affected communities, all process to unearth administrative anomalies that deprived them of their constitutional rights in the past, would be seen as the right steps towards deliverance of justice, expose the wrong-doers and set an example for focusing on actual problems plaguing the society. On account of the ministry planning to spend Rs 84,000 crore for the welfare of tribal and Dalits, an effective mechanism is the only option left to address grievances of the economically underprivileged communities.
That the move to investigate fund misuse cases, if any, would be processed under the ‘outcome-based planning’, a common format framed to help nodal ministries check where the money is being spent and status of work done, is likely to be beneficial for Manipur, which has 34.2 per cent tribal population. Significantly, as per the 2001 census report, the state witnessed 17.2 per cent decadal growth of its Scheduled Tribe population in 1991-2001. With Manipur depending entirely on sops doled out by the Centre there is urgent need for sorting out all shortcomings to ensure that funds earmarked specifically for tribal welfare programmes are utilised judiciously. For the last many years, there had been allegations that the state government has been undermining welfare of the tribal people and diverting funds for projects in non-tribal areas, regardless of the previous government negating such accusations with the insistence that 70 per cent of all Central funds were utilised in the infrastructure development projects in the hill districts. In view of such differing charges and clarifications, the Centre’s decision to track utilisation of funds provided in the past for uplift of the tribal people and closely monitor execution of upcoming projects should be decisive in authenticating these claims. Moreover, as execution of projects in the hill areas involves prior consent of the local authorities, a thorough probe might also help in throwing light on the increasing number of palatial buildings coming up in some pockets of Imphal, where there are substantial tribal population.