Monday, February 10, 2014

Official indifference: National SC Commission's Gujarat office is non-functional; 3,500 cases are pending

By Our Representative
Why is the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSCs) unable to function normally in Gujarat to inquire into different human rights issues involving Dalits? If NCSC officials are to be believed, it is because it does not have “adequate staff”, or “basic infrastructure”, or even a car, or, worse, a “proper office to function from”. All this and more has come to light in a Right to Information (RTI) reply to NGO Navsarjan Trust’s senior activist Kirit Rathod. The reply revealed, as a result of all this, more than 3,500 complaints has been pending before the NCSC for the last several years.
NCSC’s Gujarat office, says the RTI reply, was established in 1991, and has been functioning from a two-room office of the Mavlankar Mansion near Lal Darwaja, Ahmedabad. Despite the fact that the NCSC’s head office requested state social justice and empowerment secretary Sanjay Prasad to urgently look into the transfer of the NCSC office operating from an “old office situated in a very congested area of Ahmedabad” to Gandhinagar, the state capital, more than two years have passed, nothing has happened.
Prasad was particularly told why it is important to shift the office – because it should work in close cooperation with the Gujarat government. “All the information and data etc. is to be collected from state government departments”, he was suggested in the letter written in November 2011. Even space needed for NCSC office in Gujarat noted down – 2,500-3000 sq feet “approximately”.
The RTI application further reveals that the NCSC does not have a car of its own – the one it “owned”, has been sent back to Delhi, as it was in such bad state that it couldn’t even run for 100 km. While the vehicle was disposed of, the RTI reply says the NCSC does not have a new one for quite some time now, one reason why “it is possible to carry out on-the-spot inquiry into cases of atrocity and the VVIPs are unable to move around to find out realities.”
In a statement, Rathod said, “I decided to visit the NCSC office, and found that the office routinely forwards complaints a fortnight or a month after it gets one, and does no follow-up. The result is, the complaints are continuing to pile up. “I asked deputy director of the NCSC A Satyanarayana about it, and he said replied he could not do anything because he did not have any staff. He told me, the office did not have any vehicle either”, Rathod said, adding, “The office runs on a monthly rent of Rs 12,549. And, Satyanayana often visits the office of the district collector in auto rickshaw. Often, he just avoids going to any meetings.”
The Ahmedabad office has an approved strength of 15 officials, and only seven posts have been filled up. “The director’s post has been vacant for several years”, Rathod said, adding, “The Chandigarh director holds additional charge of the Gujarat office. Not without reason, it has failed to look into several cases, into the killing of three Dalits in Thangarh, exodus of Dalit families from their villages, and other such incidents.”

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