New Delhi— It has been 75 years since Independence and decades since the SC/ST Atrocities Act was put into effect. Yet abuse against scheduled communities in this nation has continued. Different bodies at state, district and sub-divisional levels have been set up to monitor the implementation of the act and to look into the rehabilitation of the victims. It is no surprise that these bodies have not be working well.
'Citizen's Audit of the Union Report under Section 21(4) of The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, reveals that the monitoring committees are not doing their work. State Level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee have a compliance rate of 12%, which is not even a quarter of the meetings. The report was made by Citizen's Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (CVMC) which was released on 14th October.
The vigilance and monitoring committee meetings are an integral part of ensuring compliance of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Everyone has a role to play. Meetings of the State Level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (SVMC) are to be held in January and July before the General Assemblies. Meetings of District Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (DVMC) and Subdivisional Level Vigilance Committee (SDVMC) should be held once in three months, to ensure timely socioeconomic rehabilitation. The SVMC demonstrates the personal commitment of the chief minister and the top administrative and executives of the state. The DVMC demonstrates the same at the district level with more attention to execution and performance of officials. The SDVMCs - with its composition of all the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes elected representatives in local self-government (panchayat raj), MLAs, and MPs in the jurisdiction - are uniquely positioned to follow up protection and rehabilitation at the individual and household levels.
In the calendar year 2021 India has a whole has conducted just 9 of 72 mandatory meetings - a compliance rate of 12%. This low rate of compliance is not an aberration. The record since inception is not inspiring. An overwhelming majority of chief ministers and parties are members of club zero. Even with the most liberal interpretation of the rules - meetings conducted by any minister at any time of the year- several states (10 of 28, 36%), chief ministers (109 of 146, 75%), and political parties (25 of 35,71%) are honourable members of club zero.
Only 119 of the statutory 1800 meetings have been conducted since inception of the rules - a compliance rate of just 6.6% or 8.35% if the union territories are excluded (the Union Territory of Chandigarh has conducted one meeting, none of the other union territories have conducted any). Most of these meetings (60, 50%) were conducted from 2010 to 2015 (8, 10, 12, 13, 9, 8 respectively.
The ranking order of compliance among states is West Bengal (15, 28%) followed by Haryana (12, 23%). Bihar and Gujarat (10, 19%) tie for the third place. With the Indian practice of 5% grace marks, West Bengal alone might scrape through with Grade E, else all states and union territories, without exception, only qualify for the rock bottom.
The district vigilance and monitoring committees are the best forum to ensure that all compliances are fulfilled at the district level - investigations, trials, appeals, allowances, reimbursements, relief, and socioeconomic rehabilitation are done on time. The periodicity of the reviews - one in three months meshes well with the timeframe of the investigation, trials, appeals, relief, socioeconomic rehabilitation and will ensure that the performance of the officials results in compliance. Bottlenecks at the district level can also be sorted out in a timely manner.
If normalised for the year 2021 (if the compliance rate is taken to be a maximum of 100% if a state has conducted more that the statutory minimum number of meetings) then all India compliance rate in conducting DVMC meetings falls to 43%. None of the north-eastern states (but for Tripura, one meeting, 3.1% compliance) or union territories (but for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, one meeting, 8.3% compliance) have conducted any DVMC meeting.
The subdivisional committees are seldom constituted. Just 5.3% of the meetings are conducted nation-wide in 2021. Ten states have below 10% compliance. 14 states have 0% compliance.
Bihar (56%) tops the list, followed by Gujarat (42%), Haryana (20%), Karnataka (18%), Tamil Nadu (7%), and Chhattisgarh (6%). All union territories, the north-eastern states (but Tripura), Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Goa, and Assam belong to club zero.