Lucknow - The crucial role of the Uttar Pradesh Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) Commission hangs in the balance as the state finds itself without an independent Chairman. The commission, dedicated to the empowerment of marginalized communities, has been operating without a designated leader for several months, raising concerns about its effectiveness and impact.
This void in leadership, coupled with the recent appointment of a Minister of State (Independent Charge) to oversee its responsibilities, prompts questions about the commission's autonomy and ability to address the diverse challenges faced by the SC/ST communities in Uttar Pradesh.
In 2018, former IPS officer Brij Lal was appointed as the Chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Scheduled Caste Commission. In 2019, his one-year tenure got over, and the post of Chairman fell vacant. Ramshankar Katheria was appointed as the Chairman later. In 2021, Rambabu Harit was appointed as the Chairman of the commission by Governor Anandi ben Patel. However, Ram Babu Harit resigned after his tenure got over in June 2022.
On July 1, 2022, the Government of Uttar Pradesh gave Asim Arun, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Social Welfare, the charge/responsibility of the Chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Commission. Various analysts have observed that the post of SC/ST Commission is a crucial post and should be held independently by a person.
The Mooknayak spoke to some Dalit activists who said the SC/ST Commission of Uttar Pradesh cannot be handled as an additional charge, as Uttar Pradesh is a big state. The government needs to appoint a separate Chairperson for this entity.
However, officials at the SC/ST Commission said, "The work is being done very smoothly, and the Minister of State (Independent Charge), who is also the Chairman of the commission, is able to do the work very conveniently."
The Mooknayak spoke to Bhawan Nath Paswan of Dr Ambedkar Rashtriya Ekta Manch who said “Additional Charge is only “ looking after” a department or entity temporarily until someone permanent takes over and that is for a week or a month it is not for years. The minister has many other tasks, he looks after his ministry and occasionally gets busy in elections. Additional charge will impact the redressal of the grievances of the people.
The Uttar Pradesh Commission For The Scheduled Castes And Scheduled Tribes Act, 1995, sections 3 and 4 provide for the constitution and composition of the members, and section 5 mentions the tenure, according to which the Chairman, a Vice-Chairman, or any other member shall hold office for a term of one year from the date he assumes office. However, it also adds, "Provided that the Chairman, a Vice-Chairman, or any other member shall hold office as such during the pleasure of the State government."
UP Scheduled Caste Finance Development Corporation is also a department dedicated to the upliftment of the Scheduled Castes. It is entrusted with providing loans to SC/ST entrepreneurs. Lalji Nirmal, Chairman of the corporation, resigned in March 2023 after he was nominated as MLC. The Principal Secretary is acting as the Chairman of the Commission. The Mooknayak spoke to Radhey Shyam, the MD of the corporation, who said that the Principal Secretary is acting as the chairman, and there are no issues in the working of the corporation.
However, a key person of the corporation speaking on the condition of anonymity said, "It is wrong to say that there won't be any anomaly if a bureaucrat is given the additional charge of the corporation." He said, "Recently, salaries of the people working on contract at the headquarters were increased by 5000-10,000 Rs because they were appointed by the secretary, the MD, but those working at the same level on a contract basis were not given the same benefit as their salaries were not increased. No one from the Board protested this unfair move because the officials on the board feared that the principal secretary could act against them in the future as they are in his department, whereas they would not have feared if there was someone from a political background as the Chairman since their tenure is limited." He added that the UPSCFDC is a big department, and therefore there should be an independent Chairman for the department.