Law to prevent SC, ST atrocities to be made more stringent

"We will make the law more stringent and if needed, bring amendments in the Act (SC&ST Prevention of Atrocities Act)," he said replying to a discussion on situation arising out of increasing atrocities against SC and ST.

He said, "In my view, the principal responsibility is with the state governments to implement these laws. The state government must post SC and ST officials where the people are vulnerable."

About reservation in jobs for SC and ST, the minister said, "Since 1950...government is totally committed to reservation of SC, ST and OBC in jobs. In UPA-I, we have cleared a backlog of 54,000 vacancies. We would come up with another drive to fill the vacancies reserved for SC and ST."

He said, "This is the most vulnerable country (as far civil rights of SC and ST are concerned)...we can't call ourselves civilised...how we treat our SC, ST and women." bout fund allocations for the welfare of SC and ST, he said, "The ministries give details of funds allocated for SC and ST and the schemes under which they partially benefited."

"Some ministries are not doing so. The Planning Commission has constituted a committee for the purpose. Once the committee submits its reports, all ministries would follow the same pattern of giving details of funds allocated for SC and ST."

The minister pointed out that one of the reasons for atrocities against SC and ST is that they are getting prosperous day by day. "This has also created problems," he said. e also said the delay in justice results in disappearance of evidence and forces witnesses to turn hostile. Thus speedy justice is required to ensure civil rights of vulnerable classes of society, he said.

Chidambaram said there had been a "historical injustice" heaped on the SCs and STs in the country, which was basically due to divisions in society. "Instead of these divisions becoming narrower, it has only become deeper. It is important to understand the divisions that lead to injustice. We have to treat the divisions, just addressing the injustice alone will not help change the situation," he said.

Pointing out that the SC/ST communities were victims of crime and atrocities, Chidambaram said this compelled one and all to hang their heads in shame. ithout naming the Mirchpur incident in Haryana where Dalits were allegedly driven out of the village, he said the recent incident in a "neighbouring state" was an example of the manner in which the wealthy and powerful inflict atrocities on these communities and how deeply entrenched the problem was.

Referring to the two special laws for protection of civil rights and prevention of atrocities on SCs and STs, he said these empowered the states to take action "if they have the motivation and will."

"Enforcement of the law is effective only if there is will and intention to implement them. Merely adding laws to the existing list does not help," he added. dmitting that statistics did show there was no decline in the atrocities, the Home Minister said, "it has in fact increased."

In 2006, there were 26,665 cases of atrocities of SCs and STs registered across the country. "The cases have simply not reduced," he said, giving the figures for 2007 and 2008 as 29,825 and 33,365 cases respectively.

The other inference of the statistics was that the state governments, coming under pressure from the centre and public opinion, now had "greater willingness" to register FIRs and hence the rise.

But, "we can't be happy about this" because the number was still less -- as many of the atrocities went unreported -- when compared to the actual number of incidents, he said.

"What is more disturbing is that the conviction rate in these cases was just about 30 per cent -- there was 28 per cent conviction in 2006, 31.4 per cent in 2007 and 32 per cent in 2008. And the pendency of cases was around 80 per cent," he said.

Admitting that there was a "serious problem" in the way the cases were dealt with, he said the executive could only prosecute, the judiciary should punish. Therefore, the feeling among these communities that the laws have not brought relief is running high and that feeling is justified," he added.

Chidambaram said most atrocities committed on the communities were murder, rape, kidnapping and arson and these were predominantly criminal acts and some opportunistic.

He also noted that his Ministry had already sent out a detailed advisory on how the states' administration, police and judiciary should deal with these cases and listed the measures.

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