Huge amount allotted to develop Dalit bastis unused
Soni Sangwan
(New Delhi, October 31)

ROADS NEED to be built, brick pavements have to be laid, small drains are needed and the Dalit chaupals are in sore need of repairs. While conditions in Dalit bastis in Delhi continue to deteriorate, Rs 3 crore meant for this work, is lying unutilised with the Social Welfare Department of the Delhi Government.

Area MLAs have been demanding that the development work in the Dalit bastis in their constituency be done. The Delhi Social Welfare Minister, Krishna Tirath, claims that such work cannot be done as the matter is sub-judice in most areas. And where it can be done, she alleges, the certification by the area MLA has been found to be incorrect.

When S P Ratawal was the Social Welfare Minister, he had empowered the MLAs to certify areas in their constituencies where more than 51 per cent residents are Dalits as Dalits bastis and to seek funds for the development of these areas from his ministry.

However, Mrs Tirath, said, "When we verified the requests sent by the MLAs, we found that the areas have barely one or two Dalit families." However, she did not say that the MLAs were giving fake certifications. "When the resident associations give an undertaking it is difficult for the MLA to personally verify it," she explained.

She said that the funds could not be sanctioned as the Dalit bastis were no longer limited to villages, but were now a part of unauthorised colonies.

For this, the involvement of the Urban Development Ministry was also needed.

She, however, sought to clarify that development work in the Dalit bastis in villages, was being done.

However, Bawana MLA Surender Kumar, said, "No work has been done in Dalit bastis in my constituency where most of these bastis are in villages. Not one street was made. I have written many letters to the Minister for this and the only reply I get is that the estimates are being prepared."

It was under Indira Gandhi's 20-point programme, that the concept of Dalit bastis was developed and the Harijan Welfare Board was created to look after their development.

Initially the Municipal Corporation and the Minor Irrigation Department were roped in for this. The residents of the area would approach the agency and the engineers of the agency would put up an estimate before the authorities for the funds to be sanctioned. However, this was an ardous process and in 1993 it was decided to give a lump sum to the MCD. But this did not work out either and the then Social Welfare Minister, S P Ratawal, decided that the money would be sanctioned to the Dalit bastis on the recommendation of the local MLA.

But while this year the allotted Rs 3 crore is yet to be disbursed, the amount meant for this work last year could also not be spent.

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