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Scheduled Tribe Component Monitoring System: A Step Forward?

Saumya Shrivastava

  • 23 August 2017
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Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) and Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (SCSP) were the twin strategies introduced in the 1970’s to ensure flow of funds for the development of Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Scheduled Castes (SCs) respectively. Till 2014, the erstwhile Planning Commission was responsible for overseeing the implementation of SCSP and TSP. After the formation of NITI Aayog in January 2015, it was expected that NITI Aayog, as a successor of Planning Commission, would monitor the implementation of these strategies. However, in 2016 NITI Aayog expressed its inability to do so, leaving the twin strategies without any nodal body to monitor their implementation across ministries and states.

In the Budget Speech of 2017-18, the Finance Minister had announced introduction of outcome-based monitoring of Schemes for Welfare of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Minorities. Subsequently, the PMO ruled that the SCSP would be monitored by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) and the TSP would be monitored by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA). The ministries were supposed to develop a monitoring structure based on the framework given by NITI Aayog (DNA, 2017). Based on these directives, the MoTA has recently come up with an online monitoring system for TSP called Scheduled Tribe Component Monitoring System (STCMS) (http://stcmis.gov.in/).

As someone who has been analysing TSP and SCSP since a few years, I am not sure how helpful this monitoring system would be for a person outside the government system. There are certainly some features of the STCMS which have eased the tracking of TSP funds from the Union Budget for different stakeholders.

For example, the STCMS gives information on real-time basis regarding the financial progress under the TSP. The system provides Union Government releases of TSP funds for schemes with component-wise releases for each department and agency incurring the expenditure. For example, one can track the quantum of funds allocated by various Union Ministries / Departments as TSP, and what proportion do these constitute of the total ministry’s budget. Similarly, with STCMS in place, it is possible to track how much budget has been sanctioned under which scheme to which state. This information is backed by a sanction order against the release, which gives information with respect to date of sanction, function heads (i.e. programme head, for e.g. National Urban Health Mission – Flexible Pool) under which it has been sanctioned, as well as object code giving nature of expenditure (e.g. grant for creation of capital assets). It also reports funds sanctioned under different ministries to various state autonomous bodies. For example it is possible to track how much money has gone to an autonomous institute, in say Chhattisgarh, (e.g. Chhattisgarh State Institute of Rural Development) from which ministry (e.g. Ministry of Panchayati Raj) and for which scheme (e.g. Capacity Building- Panchayat Sashaktikaran Abhiyaan).

Such a real-time online monitoring system is definitely a step forward in improving the monitoring of TSP. However, I feel that this by itself is not enough to ensure proper implementation of the strategy.

First, the Union Government has still not specified the roadmap for implementation of TSP. With the merger of plan and non-plan heads of expenditure, the Union Government should have formulated revised guidelines on earmarking for TSP (and SCSP). However, the Union Government has largely remained silent on this front. In absence of a revised framework for TSP implementation, developing a framework for its monitoring is ironic.

Secondly, the portal only makes financial progress of TSP available publicly; physical progress, which is equally (if not more) critical in ensuring proper implementation of TSP, is restricted to authorised personnel and protected by login and password. It is well known that one of the major implementation issues with regard to TSP was diversion of funds for purposes other than the benefit of ST people. The disclosure of partial information (only on financial progress without the complementary information on physical progress) on the website might fail to adequately address the concerns associated with the implementation of TSP.

Thirdly, at present only sanctioned amounts are available on the STCMS, and not the actual expenditure. While it is early in the financial year, it is hoped that subsequently, data on actual expenditure under TSP is also made available in such a disaggregated form. Further, it would have been better if the portal provides such information for a time series, at least covering the period of the 12th Five Year Plan.

Fourthly, monitoring will be meaningful if it can be measured against the purpose / objective of expenditure. However, in the absence of departmental plans for TSP expenditure, there is no parameter to assess the expenditure. It would be good to capture some information with respect to the planning / rationale underlying the TSP allocations / expenditure by various ministries across schemes.

While real time tracking of funds is commendable, I feel that addressing some of the above concerns would significantly strengthen the efforts of MoTA in this regard. Also, similar efforts need to be made by the MSJE for monitoring of SCSP at the earliest.

 

Reference:

PMO: Ministries and not NITI Aayog to monitor SCSP, TSP; Sun, 5 Mar 2017-10:23am, PTI. http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-pmo-ministries-and-not-niti-aayog-to-monitor-scsp-tsp-2342896

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