The department deals with the welfare of those sections of the community which are educationally, socially and economically backward with the object of bringing them on par with the rest of the advanced and organised sections of the population. In order to achieve these objectives, various schemes for the welfare of backward classes are undertaken. The schemes are being implemented either by Government or through voluntary agencies recognised for this purpose.

Organisation: The Department of Social Welfare was constituted immediately on Reorganisation of States from 1st November 1956. It, however, took shape at Directorate level since 15th September 1957. The backward class welfare work done previously by the Backward Class Department is now done by the Backward Class Wing of the Social Welfare Department. The other wing of the Social Welfare Department is the Correctional Wing. The designation of the Director of Backward Class Welfare was changed to the Director of Social Welfare who is the head of the Social Welfare Department of the State with his head-quarters at Pune. The post of the Chief Inspector of Certified Schools and Institutions is re-designated as the Deputy Director of Social Welfare (Correctional Wing) and this officer assists the Director of Social Welfare in matters relating to the Correctional Wing. So far as this wing of the Directorate is concerned, he is assisted by two Deputy Directors and one Research Officer, four Assistant Directors and other essential administrative staff. They nave to look after the work relating to education and welfare of physically handicapped and the work relating to planning, research and statistics pertaining to both backward class welfare and correctional administration.

There are four Divisional Social Welfare Officers of the rank of Deputy Directors for four revenue divisions and they have been declared as the Regional Heads.

At the district level, the department has district officers termed as Social Welfare Officers. Their services have been transferred to the Zilla Parishad with the inception of the Zilla Parishad in 1962. They are responsible to the Chief Executive Officer of the Zilla Parishad. They execute the schemes proposed by the Social Welfare Department and co-ordinate the work of backward class welfare in the district in respect of backward class welfare schemes implemented by the various departments of the State. Some schemes pertaining to the welfare of backward classes in the district are now within the purview of the Zilla Parishad which is paid purposive grant at 90 per cent rate on committed schemes and cent per cent grant on plan schemes.

For advising the State Government on matters relating to the welfare of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, an Advisory Board and an Advisory Council, respectively, have been constituted.

Backward Classes : The classification of backward classes is made into three broad categories, viz., (1) the scheduled castes or harijans, (2) the scheduled tribes or adivasis and (3) the other backward classes, who are neither scheduled castes nor scheduled tribes, but who are socially, economically and educationally as backward as the other two categories. The communities coming under the first two categories are notified by the Government of India under the orders of the President for each of the States in the Indian Union. However, the classification as backward based on communities has been abolished and now the classification is based on economic condition (income). This new class of other backward classes is given the concession of free education at ail stages of education.

A number of other privileges have also been granted to backward classes and special grants are paid every year by the Government of India under article 275(i) of the Constitution of India for ameliorating the condition of backward classes. Article 46 of Part II of the Constitution lays down the responsibility of the State Government in respect of the Backward Classes as under:-

" The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interest of the weaker sections of the people and in particular of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation." Besides normal concessions made available to backward classes from time to time, special schemes have been framed for backward classes by the State Government under the Five-Year Plans which are being implemented vigorously. These backward classes include 184 castes and people whose annual income is less than Rs. 1,800 per annum and irrespective of their caste, are treated as economically backward and are eligible for the concession of free education.

The district, having a population of 22,69,117 as per the Census of 1971, has a population of 3,57,226 belonging to scheduled castes and tribes which constitutes 16 per cent of the total population. Akola taluka which is a hilly tract has the highest percentage of the tribes, with 45 per cent of the total scheduled tribes population. Two tribal development blocks, viz., Vaki and Rajura, are functioning for the socio-economic uplift of the people.

Measures of uplift: The disabilities of backward classes are three fold-educational, economic and social. The Government have, therefore, launched a three-pronged drive with the object of eliminating these disabilities within the shortest possible time and also in eradicating untouchability.

The disability in educational sphere is tackled by providing many facilities to the backward class students such as general concessions of free-studentship, payment of examination fees, reservation of seats in educational institutions, payment of scholarships including overseas scholarships, provision for hostel facilities for students studying at all stages of education-primary, secondary and collegiate, etc.

Economic disability is attempted to be removed by economic rehabilitation of the backward classes. This is mainly effected by (i) grant of cultivable waste land and other facilities such as undertaking development of land, bunding, supply of ploughs, bullocks, implements, seed, etc., for rehabilitating backward classes in agriculture; (ii) establishing training centres for imparting training in hereditary crafts and providing financial help for their rehabilitation in various cottage industries; (iii) imbibing the idea of co-operative movement in their day-to-day life, giving to them all facilities provided by the State under special additional concessions and safeguards for backward classes; (iv) introducing special measures for housing of backward classes; and (v) reserving certain percentage of vacancies for backward classes in service under State Government, local bodies and semi-Government organisations.

On the social side, the activity is designed to remove the stigma of untouchability in respect of scheduled castes, assimilation of scheduled tribes in general population without destroying their hereditary traits and rehabilitation of ex-criminal tribes and nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes from among the category of other backward classes. Legislation as well as propaganda through the voluntary agencies are the means used to achieve this object. It may be noted in this connection that the Government of India passed the Untouchability Offences Act in 1955 to stop the practice of observance of untouchability. treating it as an offence.

With the assistance of the Central Government amounting to 50 per cent of the expenditure incurred by the State Government in this behalf, various measures are undertaken by the State Government for the uplift of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, vimukta jatis and other backward classes and also with a view to achieving their economic uplift and settlement and removal of their social disabilities. The Third Five-Year Plan provided for a programme of backward class welfare with a total outlay of Rs. 5.61 crores and Fourth Five-Year Plan provided Rs. 142.4 crores to the Maharashtra State. Besides this, the Government of India has also sponsored on cent per cent basis a special programme with an outlay amounting to Rs. 3.53 crores in the Maharashtra State which includes 18 multipurpose projects in the scheduled areas of the State alongwith other measures for the welfare of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and vimukta jatis.

In the implementation of these backward class welfare measures, advice and co-operation is also sought from eminent social workers and voluntary organisations.

Administrative set-up: Prior to (May 1, 1962) the formation of Zilla Parishad, all the schemes for the welfare of backward classes implemented through the Social Welfare Department were controlled by the Social Welfare Officers in charge of the district. After the formation of Zilla Parishad this department was amalgamated with the Zilla Parishad and most of the backward class welfare schemes have been transferred to Zilla Parishad under section 100-A of the Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act, 1961. Powers beyond the limitation of the Social Welfare Officers have been delegated to the Standing Committee of the Zilla Parishad under section 92 of the said Act. Due to this decentralisation, material and effective changes are noticed and the schemes are implemented speedily. Schemes under educational concessions are implemented by the Social Welfare Officers, viz., grant of tuition fees, examination fees and scholarships and grant-in-aid to hostels. Recognition to new hostels, withdrawal of the same and increase in the strength of these hostels can be granted only with the approval of standing committee. Schemes under the economic uplift are implemented by the Panchayat Samitis at the block level. The Block Development Officers of Panchayat Samitis receive the applications from backward classes from their talukas. The Block Development Officers, Extension Officers of the blocks and the Social Welfare Officer carefully watch the Follow-up programme regarding the proper utilisation of the help given to the backward classes. In the membership of the Standing Committee of the Zilla Parishad, which is the most powerful committee, at least two members from scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other socially and educationally backward classes are elected by the Parishad. This Standing Committee acts as a subjects committee for the welfare of these classes. The Zilla Parishad is also legally required to spend adequate amounts for the amelioration of the condition of these classes and in particular for the removal of untouchability.

To give wide publicity to the schemes in rural areas, a publicity van with cinema equipment is attached to this section. One Social Welfare Inspector and other ministerial staff help the Social Welfare Officer in the implementation of the schemes. Propaganda of the schemes in each taluka is undertaken jointly by the official and non-official agencies.

Progress of Schemes: Education: Various schemes for the welfare of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other educationally or socially backward classes are in operation in the district. Concessions are awarded to backward class students in primary schools, high schools or technical schools. In 1962-63 5,887 students benefited to the tune of Rs. 96,600. During 1965-66 the number of beneficiaries was 22,449 and the amount of concession was Rs. 22.21 lakhs. During 1966-67, 35,522 pupils got the benefit of this scheme and the amount of concession amounted to Rs. 27.96 lakhs. In the year 1962-63 a sum of Rs. 3,95,765 was spent on 59 backward class and thirteen cosmopolitan hostels. The building grant to the tune of Rs. 19,710 was also extended to one scheduled tribe and three scheduled caste hostels. There is also a Government Backward Class Hostel for boys at Shrigonda in the district and Government Backward Class Hostel for girls at Ahmadnagar. Besides, there are 107 hostels for backward classes run by voluntary organisations in the district.

Under social welfare schemes a sum of Rs. 29,000 was spent on 33 balwadis, 18 literacy classes and three arts and crafts classes. There are at present nine balwadis functioning at various places in the district.

Economic uplift: The economic regeneration of the backward classes is promoted by various means such as schemes of granting loan-cum-subsidy for cottage industries and professions and assistance for purchases of milch cattle, distribution of improved agricultural implements, and applied nutrition programme. Two blocks, viz., Waki and Rajura, have been selected for undertaking intensive tribal development work and an amount of Rs. 5.3 lakhs was spent on the schemes in these two blocks during the year 1966-67. Under the scheme of loan-cum-subsidy for cottage industries and professions, Rs. 15,750 were given to 138 beneficiaries from the scheduled castes and backward classes from underdeveloped rural areas during the year 1962-63 and Rs. 3,700 were spent on sixteen beneficiaries under the scheme of assistance for purchase of milch cattle in the same year.

Housing: The backward classes are provided with housing accommodation by the grant of loan for the purchase of suitable building-sites for individual construction or for co-operative societies of the backward classes. Besides giving loans for the new houses, the Government have envisaged schemes for granting aid for repairs to old houses. Under this scheme Rs. 6,100 were given to sixty beneficiaries and an expenditure of Rs. 33,000 was incurred on one backward class housing colony during the year 1962-63. Twelve housing co-operatives have been organised for backward class persons. In addition to this, interest-free loan for development purposes up to 15 per cent of the ceiling is also given to backward class co-operative societies. Management expenses are also given by way of subsidies. In addition, the scheme of mixed colonisation is also formulated. Under this scheme it is incumbent on each colony to allocate at least 10 per cent of its tenements for non-backward class families.

Financial assistance to poor deserving agriculturists from scheduled tribes, vimukta jatis, under-developed rural areas and other backward classes to purchase ploughs, bullocks, implements, seeds, carts, etc., is given. A sum of Rs. 23,160 was spent on 230 beneficiaries under this scheme during the year 1962-63. In the year 1961-62 an amount of Rs. 7,10,196 was spent under the drinking water wells scheme, for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Medical aid is given to deserving persons belonging to the scheduled caste and Rs. 600 were spent during the year 1961-62 on six beneficiaries.

Social uplift: Measures are taken to ensure the social uplift of the backward classes, especially the harijans. The Bombay Harijan (Removal of Social Disabilities) Act (XXXXVI of 1947), as amended in 1948, has been enacted with a view to bringing about complete removal of untouchability as far as public and civil rights are concerned. The provisions include various schemes of publicity against untouchability. Mixed hostels where backward classes and caste Hindu boys live together are recognised for grant-in-aid.

To strike down the barriers of untouchability Government encourages inter-caste marriages by giving a public reception to the couple which is attended by important officials and prominent social workers. For such celebrations grants are also sanctioned.

Sanskar Kendras : Sanskar kendras and balwadis are organised and film shows and gatherings are addressed at fairs and other places. During the Second Five-Year Plan, measures such as kirtan programmes, melas and entertainment programmes, award of prizes to villages, intensification of untouchability drive, provision of building sites for harijans in rural areas, subsidy to caste Hindu landlords for letting their premises on hire to harijans were organised. Inter-caste dinners, celebration of Ashprishyata Nivaran Din, etc., are also arranged. An amount of Rs. 11,190 was spent under these schemes during the year 1962-63.

The schemes which were already in operation before the Third Five-Year Plan are treated as committed schemes and those added under the Third Plan are separately treated as Plan schemes. The expenditure described above against each scheme is out of committed schemes and includes expenditure on the Plan schemes.

In addition to the State Government schemes, there are some Centrally-sponsored schemes as well. Under some of these schemes assistance in the form of housing aid, supply of milch cattle, cottage industry aid, supply of seeds, plough, bullocks, etc. is given in order to improve the living conditions of the backward classes. Under the scheme of legal aid to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, free legal aid is given to persons belonging to backward class communities. Since the formation of the Zilla Parishad, all these activities are carried out by the Zilla Parishad under the guidance of the department in the State sector.

In fact the raison d'etre of planning in India is the large-scale poverty and backwardness prevailing generally. Expansion of social services to better the lot of the people is the ultimate aim of every Welfare State. Adding a note of caution against the economic development leading to " Social Services endangering the fabric of democratic society ", the Plan document asserts that " the weakest should be looked after and the benefits of development should flow by planned investment in the under-developed regions and among the more backward sections of community."