By K. Ashwin Mob: 00919920183006 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Human Rights Commission held a a public hearing in Ravi Bhawan, Nagpur , on 28th, 29th and 30th January, 2013, for disposal of complaints received from persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes.
A total of 571cases were taken up by two benches presided over by Hon’ble Members Justice Shri B.C. Patel and Shri Satyabrata Pal.
The complaints received by the Commission touched upon various issues like forcible dispossession of Scheduled Castes from their lands, denial of benefits of social welfare schemes, discrimination, grabbing of land by persons of upper castes, malpractices of revenue authorities, non-payment of retiral benefits, non issue of caste certificates, etc.
People came from far flung areas to attend. The Commission, however, noted with disdain that the response of officers was very poor, except in four or five districts. In some cases, the Commission even directed the State Government to reimburse the travelling expenses of the complainants.
During the public hearing at Nagpur, the Commission observed that the process of inquiry for issue of caste certificates was taking a long time to conclude, thereby causing inconvenience to scheduled caste persons. It was also noticed in many cases that the police was reluctant to register FIR when approached by SC persons with complaints. A large number of persons complained that the benefit of the housing schemes was not being given to them. Although, land was allotted under the Schemes, the Patta was not issued and entry of mutation in the revenue records was not made. In many matters relating to housing/land schemes, the Commission could not give relief to the complainants because they had already approached the Courts of law and the matter was subjudice.
In response, to the notices issued by the National Human Rights Commission, the Government of Maharashtra gave relief to many aggrieved persons. BPL cards were issued to some persons and in some cases caste certificates were also issued. Some persons who were in government services felt relieved to receive the retirement benefits and withheld salary.
Review meeting in Mumbai
On 31 January, 2013, the Commission held a meeting with NGOs in Mumbai. The representatives of the NGOs pointed out that the Chairperson of the State Human Rights Commission had not been appointed by the State Government. The Commission was also informed that the meeting of the State Vigilance Committee had not taken place for a long time.
Social activist Ms. Medha Patkar apprised the Commission of the subhuman conditions in which the slum dwellers were living. She stated that Section 5 of the Slums Act was not being implemented properly and basic amenities were not available to the slum dwellers. She allegedmassive corruption in the implementation of the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme. She urged the Commission to make an inquiry into the housing rights of Dalits.
Another NGO brought to the notice of the Commission that Tanta Mukti Scheme which had been launched by an executive order was prejudicial to the interests of the SCs because they had no voice at the village level and decisions were taken under the influence of mighty upper caste persons.
The Chief Secretary of the Government of Maharashtra promised to look into all the issues and take corrective action if required. He also assured that an appraisal of the Tanta Mukti Scheme would be made and if it was working to the prejudice of SC persons. DGP, Maharashtra informed the Commission that a circular for strict compliance of Section 154 Cr. P.C. had been already issued. He assured the Commission that the circular would be reiterated and necessary directions would be given to the police officers at district level.
Annex – I
Some issues of public importance that were raised during public hearing
Employment opportunities for children of safai karmacharis
1. A petition was received from Akhil Bhartiya Safai Mazdoor Congress alleging that the Government of Maharashtra have not implemented the recommendation of the Lad-Page Committee set up for the welfare of Safai Mazdoors. The Committee had recommended to give employment to the candidates of Balmiki caste and also to their dependants to the post of sweeper after their retirement. A number of posts of sweeper in different hospitals and dispensaries of the State were lying vacant due to non-implementation of the recommendations. The State Government told the Commission that it had taken a decision to outsource the services of cleanliness in the government medical hospitals. Therefore, steps were not being taken for filling up the posts of sweepers by appointing heirs of retired employees. The Commission observed that outsourcing of cleanliness of hospitals would result in denial of jobs to persons coming from the Balmiki community and it also amounts to abdication of supervisory duty by the officers of the government. This would benefit a large number of Valmiki community desirous of getting jobs of Sweepers. Similar relief was also given to Safai Karamcharies in Jalgaon Mahanagar Palika.
Scholarships for SC students
2. It was also complained that in 213 secondary schools in district Sholapur , the Scheduled Caste students had not received the scholarships for the year 2011-2012. The State Government explained that the proposals for scholarship had to be sent to the Social Welfare Department by the concerned schools. It was also stated that show-cause notices had been issued to the defaulting schools and 203 schools had submitted explanations. The Commission recommended that the schools should immediately submit proposals for grant of scholarships to the students and the amount of scholarship should be disbursed to the eligible students within one month.
School for SC students
3. A complaint was received from Shri Dilip Rao P. Agale of Anna Bhau Sathe Sangharsh Samiti regarding the State Government’s reluctance to accord recognition to primary and secondary school at Pangaon, district Latur, exclusively for the benefit of SC students. The State Government explained that there were four schools within the area of one kilometer and therefore, the school run by the Sangharsh Samiti could not be recognized. The Commission pointed out that this school is meant exclusively for SC children and imparting education to the children of that community is the primary social responsibility of the government. The Commission asked the State Government to take a decision about according recognition to the school within four weeks.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is an autonomous public body constituted on 12 October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance of 28 September 1993. It is responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights, defined by the Act as “rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants”. The composition of NHRC includes a Chairperson, Four full time members and four ex-officio members, who are the chairpersons of National Commissions on Women, Minorities, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Former Chief Justice of India, Mr. K G Balakrishnan is the present Chairperson of the Commission.