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State Level Consultation on Proposed Amendments to SC/ST (PoA) Act

The state level consultation of Andhra Pradesh on proposed amendments to SC/ST (PoA) Act 1989 and Rules 1995 was held at Ravindra Bharathi, Hyderabad on 3rd September 2012. The conference was presided over by Jhansi Geddam, State Coordinator for State Coalition on strengthening of SC/ST PoA Act and other dignitaries on the dais were Docca Manikya Vara Prasad, Hon’ble Minister for Rural Development, K. Praveen Kumar IAS – Commissioner of Fisheries Department, RS Praveen Kumar IPS – Secretary of Social Welfare Society, S. Chellappa IAS (retd), Dr SDJM Prasad - National Coordinator for strengthening of SC/ST PoA Act, Chennakesavulu – Addl Commissioner of Social Welfare Department, K. Rushaya Rao IPS - DIG(Retd), coalition members - Thomas Pallithanam, R.Ravi Kumar and Narsimha. Amebdak’s photo was garlanded by Chellapa and SDJM Prasad.

Jhansi Geddam in her presidential address said that, “as it has been 2 decades since the making of the Act and it’s the right time to review the Act, strengthen and amend it. This meeting was organized to gather the views of more than 100 representatives of organizations, movements, intellectuals working on this Act in AP from all the 23 districts. The eminent guests on the dais will also give their inputs and their views on the proposed

amendments on SC/ST (PoA) Act. The process of reviewing the implementation and strengthening of the Act has been going on since 2009 and proposed amendments to the Act have been discussed on various platforms across the state and country including the ministry and RGICS, New Delhi. The attacks on dalit women and girl children are still continuing and everyone knows about the recent massacre on dalits at Lakshimpet in Srikakulum district. As the IAS and IPS officers play an important role in curtailing the violence, we have invited our SC/ST officials.” The post lunch session had been opened for the floor to share their views and experiences and add on to the proposed amendments.

SDJM Prasad sharing about the campaign at national level had said that a meeting was held in 2009 at Delhi with about 100 organisations across the country on the eve of 20 years of the SC/ST POA Act 1989. He said that untouchability and discrimination are at an increasing

spree day by day and atrocities in Andhra Pradesh are being increased by 4-5% and by about 7% in Rajasthan as per the registered cases. It might be alarming if we go by the data of un-registered and un-reported cases. Since the change is not as expected even with advent of the Act, the loopholes in the Act are being exploited. The Act is unable to protect the victims and witnesses of the atrocities and in the past two decades one crore fifty lakh dalits have been effected due to the atrocities on them and dalits who have been indirectly affected will be far high. Though the number activists working for the Dalit rights are increasing and the atrocities on dalits are also increasing simultaneously.As per the rules of the Act, the District Vigilance and Monitoring Committee meetings are to be held in every district to review and monitor the atrocity cases, but they are not being held. Similarly the conviction rate under the SC/ ST POA Act is below 3% in the country. Initially 10 amendments were formulated and sent for review of National Judicial Academy and later submitted to the ministry of social justice and empowerment. The ministry sought the opinion of all states for which few states responded and few are yet to. The proposed amendments were also submitted to the National Advisory Council, which will review and submit to the government for approval. Efforts are being made to organize ‘Chalo Delhi’ program on 23rd November 2012. Therefore I request you all to take forward this campaign throughout the state to build pressure on the government.

Chellappa, IAS (retired)has said the atrocities on dalits are increasing day by day and the reason for that according to Ambedkar is lack of education. Our stateAndhra Pradesh stands in the last place in literacy among the states in south India. The governments in the states and centre say that though literacy rate is very low, lot of development has been achieved. But what development is achieved and how development can be achieved without education? Everyone should get educated and get knowledge so that they stop all sorts of discriminating practices. Second Chapter of the Indian Constitution is considered as important since it contains fundamental rights. Though Article 17 says about “Prohibition of Untouchability”, it is still in practice. Recollecting his past experiences he said that a letter has been sent by governor of RBI to all banks directing them to sanction loans to the SCs &

STs by taking only collateral security but no bank has given any loans. Similarly the SC/ST Act says separate budget has to be allocated for its implementation, but in reality it doesn’t happen. He also mentioned that in any case the Sub Inspector is implementing all the necessary actions including the investigation and the DSP/ACP are just signing. Therefore he suggested that the SI should himself sign the cases instead of DSP/ACP. Time limitation has to be set to resolve cases, as the cases like Karamchedu and Tsundur which took 17 to 25 years. Therefore there is a need to make special courts to work on SC/ST (PoA) Act cases only.

R.S Praveen Kumar IPS has said that to sustain in this competitive world dalit children should be guided towards education and knowledge. English is going to be the mother tongue in

future and by 2020 nearly 65% are going to talk in English in our country. Every one of us needs to learn and speak in English as it is going to be the main language. Normally the Sub Inspector takes up investigation of the atrocity cases and the ACP/DSP signs the documents prepared by the sub inspector. Here we need to bring pressure for the implementation of the Act. Right to Information Act brought the Public information officers and a commission for its implementation, similarly for the Domestic violence Act, a mechanism of Protection officers has come into existence under this Act. But there is no mechanism existing for the implementation of SC/ST POA Act and we need to bring it in these amendments. We also need to include gender and children focused amendments.

Docca Manikya Vara Prasad - Minister for Rural Development had released the Telugu version booklet, “Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act, 1989 and Rules 1995 – Proposed Amendments for Effective Monitoring and Implementation”. During his speech he said that

though he didn’t have much experience in movements, but was instrumental in getting conviction to the accused in Tsundur massacre. Strong dalit movements paved way for the SC/ST (PoA) Act in the year 1989 and there was no discontentment from the society, whereas now the scenario has changed and there is much unhappiness among the non dalit community including the policy makers. Hence to get the amendments passed will not be an easy task and we need work harder in a strategic way. Similarly a serious objection is being raised against the promotions and SC & ST Sub Plan. He also stressed on the gap between the thinking of the dalit groups and the dominant community. We have to remember that when Tsundur and Karamchedu incidents took place the middle class from the other castes stood with us the situation now has

changed and nobody from other castes are supporting our movement. We will have to think about this and should find out the solution. Therefore we need build a system of social support that correctly fills the gap. The non dalits try to divert the situation and state that there is no caste discrimination by stating small and negligible examples. He also said that many approach him with complaints that are not registered as FIRs and when he has to talk to respective officers for necessary action, it is again the dominant community officers. Let us all think seriously to evaluate our self and need to change this situation. He also said that he was the one who raised the Laxmipet issue in the state cabinet, which is the first time in the history of Andhra Pradesh. There is no provision for the conviction of a murder in the SC ST Act where we have to use IPC sections for conviction. The Act has to be revised and strengthened. He also stated that he wrote a letter to the Prime Minster of India requesting to initiate CBI inquiry on Laximpet Massacre and every atrocity where more than two dalits were killed

K. Praveen Kumar IAS has stressed on the strategies for the inclusion of other sub castes

such as Chindu, Relli etc. The dalits are the main factors for production in the agricultural sector, construction sector and other production units, but can never aim at becoming the owners. Without the dalits all these sectors come to closure, for example we will not have paddy, no roads, no buildings etc. The blood of the dalits is there in building the nation, whereas the treatment we receive is un-comparable. The caste discrimination is still persisting and is hidden underneath. It will come out at any time and ruin us. The problems are growing day by day and similarly the violence is growing day by day. As per the old census we are about 1.25 crores and how many of us know about this Act. The dominant communities are well aware of many things, whereas we are not aware of this Act which meant for us only and the main reason is language barrier. Our state is in the forefront on many issues and why it is at the last place in implementing this Act and one of the reason is lack of awareness in the activists. It is great that more than 100 intellectuals have assembled here and the responsibility of taking forward this campaign is on our shoulders.

K. Rushya Rao IPS has explained about the importance of writing the complaint elaborately, follow-up of investigation, giving the genuine statements and narrating the same statement in the court. In the same way he had demanded for special courts and speedy trial.

Fr Palli Thomas has said we had shed our blood for mere 1–2 acres, whereas the government is letting out thousands of acres to the multinational companies.

We got the Act after a lot of movement and by the time we are able to force the machinery to

implement it, the situation is arising that many are working for the abolition of the Act. A serious objection is being raised against the amendments. 55-60% of the cases are being closed as false complaints. Therefore we need to look into this matter very seriously and ensure that necessary amendment is brought to curtail this practise. Similarly we will also need to use the RTI, RTF and RTE and strengthen this movement.

All the representatives from 23 districts and heads of organizations have shared their experiences and suggestions on implementation of the Act and required amendments. Everyone was very enthusiastic to take forward the implementation of the Act and its amendments to the grass root level in their respective districts and ensure consolidation at state level. They had also planned to organize meetings with other activists in their respective districts.

Narasimha, Member of Coalition, had given the vote of thanks. The DSS Cultural Team had created enthusiasm throughout the day by singing Ambedkar songs.

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