Signature Campaign for Amendments to SC/ST Act
A WORKSHOP on amendments needed to the SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Act 1989, held recently at Malur in Kollar district, was inaugurated by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member K Varadha Rajan who said the CPI(M)’s approach on caste issues is to integrate the struggles for social justice with class struggle. The surveys conducted by the party in different states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Karnataka have revealed that there have been more than 150 discriminatory practices based on the caste system. He said caste has been an instrument to gain wealth as dalits are forbidden from owning any property as per the Manusmriti. Though the SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Act is in force, it has been made a toothless one since the burden of proving the occurrence of an atrocity lies on the victim as per the act. Further, section 12 (4) has provision to accord compensation only after the judgement is pronounced, which generally takes years and years. On this occasion, CPI(M) state secretariat member V J K Nair initiated a signature campaign to press the demand of amendments needed to the SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Act. The party has decided to collect at least five crore signatures throughout the country on this issue. He said social reform movements needed to be built in Karnataka for social transformation. CPI(M) state secretariat member Nityananda Swamy said that not only is the act a weak one, women among dalits are the most affected. They are also victimised on the basis of baseless propaganda that they indulge in black magic. Other leaders present in the workshop were state secretariat members U Basavaraju, Gopalakrishna Aralahalli and Maruti Manpade. It was planned to make this a statewide campaign so as collect at least 10 lakh signatures in Karnataka. WORKSHOP’S DEMANDS The important demands put forward at the workshop are as below. Amendments to the POA Act and the rules under it must be moved and enacted in the winter session of parliament. New offences not defined in the act must be included. Punishment for atrocities and attacks on the scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs) must be made more severe. Compensation to the victims must be increased. Measures have to be taken to rehabilitate the victims immediately after an incident. More fast track courts must be established. More exclusive special public prosecutors must be appointed for speedy disposal of cases within a fixed time frame. Rights of the victims and witnesses have to be defined in the act. All discriminatory practices must be treated as civil offences and tried accordingly. Strict action must be taken against the police officials who fail to take preventive measures to stop an attack on the SCs or STs. Action must also be taken against the administrative officials who pressurises the SCs or STs to make a compromise. The provisions of the POA Act must be made applicable to all dalits and tribals irrespective of their religion. The SCSP and TSP must be given statutory status. The government of India must make a legislation on these as early as possible. Economic empowerment of the SC/ST groups must be ensured. All the vacant posts in concerned departments and courts must be filled up at the earliest. Reservations must be implemented in private sector. Land must be allotted for every SC/ST family which is landless, along with other landless poor. Different monitoring committees must coordinate their work and suggest measures to curb rising atrocities on SC/ST groups. It must be ensured that monitoring committees meet frequently. Inter-caste marriages must be encouraged. Apart from providing economic assistance, the administration must ensure the safety of the couples in such marriages. A wide campaign must be conducted in a sustained manner against caste discrimination and attacks on dalits. There must also be a campaign to educating the SC/ST groups about the POA Act and its provisions. The Karnataka government must take steps to pass a law against superstitions, with provisions against caste based discrimination.