Govt to form committee to verify diversion of tribal funds

Bhubaneswar: Bowing to Opposition pressure, state government on Wednesday announced setting up of an expert committee to verify the truth behind alleged diversion of funds meant for development of tribals and dalits.

The state government, which was initially reluctant to set up commissions for the development of tribals and dalits, also agreed to consider such a proposal according to the guideline issued by the Planning Commission.

"The state government will verify alleged diversion of funds meant for tribals and dalits by setting up an expert committee," Scheduled Tribe & Scheduled Caste Development, Minorities Backward Classes Welfare Minister Bijay Ranjan Singh Bariha told the Assembly while replying a debate on an adjournment motion.

Bariha said his department would initiate steps to ensure that there was no "further diversion" of funds, if any.

"We will discuss with departments like home, works and others to which tribal and dalits funds were given under special component sub-plan (SCSP) and tribal area sub-plan (TASP)," the minister said.

On setting up separate commissions for tribals and dalits, he said the government would consider the proposal.

At the beginning of the debate, he had rejected the proposal of setting up any commission for tribals and dalits.

Initiating the debate, senior Congress MLA Dambarudhar Ulaka cited several instances where funds under SCSP and TASP were diverted in home, works, forest and environment, higher education, women and child development and panchayati raj departments.

"Funds meant for tribals and dalits were spent in constructing flyovers, roads in the state capital, collector office building, circuit houses, jails and purchase of equipment for police," Ulaka, a senior tribal leader, said.

He alleged that tribal-dalit funds were also diverted to state`s own programmes like Madhubabu pension scheme.

Congress Chief Whip Prasad Harichandan wondered as to how funds were diverted while the Planning Commission had categorically said SCSP and TASP could not be diverted.

"Diversion of tribal and dalit funds for other purposes is one of the reasons for the rise of left wing extremism in the state," Harichandan said.