SPARK (Strengthening Public Accountability for Results and Knowledge) is an ambitious and innovative global program to arm marginalized groups and activists with the tools necessary to engage in budget processes and affect transformational change in their lives.
SPARK’s interventions in India are focused on empowering marginalized communities, specifically the Scheduled Castes (Dalits) and Scheduled Tribes (Adivasis), with the aim of bringing about transformational change in their lives and achieving social justice and equity.
In India, the caste system has resulted in exacerbating inter-generational poverty and systemic deprivation of Dalits and Adivasis. Since these communities have been denied education for generations, they often lack the agency, know-how and resources to claim their rights and entitlements. Additionally, government programs for these marginalized communities are often under-resourced, under-utilized and under-accounted for, resulting in service delivery challenges.
Even as the PMS accounts for the largest percentage of funds allocated for higher education ($.7 billion in 2020 from the national government), the demand for the scholarship does not match the approved budgets, preventing a large number of eligible students from accessing these funds. The scheme can serve approximately five million students in a year but due to poor planning, diversion of funds and a lack of accountability, the number of students supported is far less.
IBP is partnering with organizations who work for the most marginalized communities in India.
- National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) is a coalition of Dalit human rights activists and academics who aim to end caste-based discrimination and promote human rights. NCDHR’s strength lies in its ability to engage with diverse stakeholders to impact policy changes at all levels of government. Read more on NCDHR’s work with an emerging female Dalit leader during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA) is a grassroots movement of manual scavengers that works to eliminate the shameful practice in India. SKA is led by liberated manual scavengers who challenge the status quo and fight to reclaim their right to dignity.
- SATHI is a leading voice in the health rights movement in India that is based out of Pune in Maharashtra. Working with a rights-based approach, SATHI demands stronger public health services and seeks greater government accountability for improved service delivery.
- The Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA) is a non-profit, non-partisan policy research organization based in New Delhi, India. In partnership with IBP, CBGA aims to strengthen the accountability ecosystem around budgets and build the capacity of SPARK partners to build evidence for strengthening policy engagement and budget related advocacy.
Access to higher education
Working with the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), IBP will engage with multiple stakeholders, including students’ groups, to build a bottom-up advocacy plan to identify and address the various implementation challenges facing the Post-Matric Scholarship (PMS) scheme and support students in claiming their scholarship entitlements. The project states include Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.
Safeguarding the rights of manual scavengers
In partnership with Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA), IBP is working to ensure the effective implementation of the Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) – the government scheme created to safeguard rights and rehabilitate manual scavengers. SKA will support manual scavengers as they claim their entitlements, document their experiences and use these to inform an alternative program that is more responsive to the needs of liberated manual scavengers.
SKA is also working to build a cohort of women who are knowledgeable about the budget issues underlying the effective implementation of the SRMS. These women budget champions will also lead in advocating with government, at both the national and lower levels. Their advocacy will be based on their understanding of the need for increasing budget allocations, implementation gaps within SRMS and engaging with relevant stakeholders. The project states include Delhi, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
SATHI is working with village community groups, community-based civil society groups and frontline health and creche workers to identify challenges behind the poor implementation of the Amrut Aahaar Yojana (AAY) – the state scheme in Maharashtra created to address malnutrition among tribal districts. SATHI has undertaken research that generated community-based data that will formulate and implement strategies targeted at improving the delivery of nutrition and health services among tribal districts.The project is focused in Maharashtra, and more specifically in the tribal districts of Thane, Raigad and Gadchiroli.
The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) has been working with Dalit and Adivasi students, civil society organizations and community-based organizations to ensure that students from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have access to higher education, with a focus on the Post Matric Scholarship (PMS) scheme. Using the Right to Information Act, NCDHR analyzed budget documents and collected relevant information on PMS to campaign, organize student-led demonstrations, coordinate media engagement and hold pre-budget consultations with key stakeholders. As a result, the government released INR 60 billion ($.86 billion) for PMS in 2018-2019, up from INR 34.1 billion ($.49 billion) in 2017-2018.