Disturbed at reports of continuing atrocities against the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and senior citizens, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday asked the States to vigorously enforce the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The States needed to give more attention to this issue. The meetings of State and district vigilance and monitoring committees should be held regularly, and court cases pursued diligently and on priority basis, Dr. Singh said here, inaugurating a two-day annual conference of State Ministers of Welfare/Social Justice.

“Shocked”

“Shocked” over the conviction rate of cases of atrocities against the SC/STs being less than 30 per cent against the average of 42 per cent for all cognisable offences under the Indian Penal Code, Dr. Singh said the disadvantaged groups should be considered equal partners in our development processes. “We should reflect on how to harness the largely untapped potential of people of disadvantage to become equal productive citizens.”

Pointing out that the root of the problem of exclusion from the national mainstream lay in social prejudices and associated discrimination, Dr. Singh said that both the Centre and the States would have to work out effective strategies to ensure greater security, dignity, equality and a more non-discriminatory treatment to the vulnerable sections.

Drawing attention to the drought-like situation in many parts of the country, the Prime Minister said experience had shown that weaker sections were the worst affected by such natural calamities. “We need to step up monitoring and implementation of key plans such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the Annapurna programme and the Old Age Pension Scheme which target the weaker sections. It is our duty to ensure that these sections receive their proportionate share of these benefits.”

Dr. Singh said the government proposed to comprehensively amend the Persons with Disabilities (equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation) Act, 1995 in consultation with the States and all stakeholders to bring it in line with the obligations under the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Appeal to institutions

He urged the institutions with public dealings to make the process more user-friendly and accessible to the disadvantaged persons.

Calling upon the States to notify and implement the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 on a priority basis, Dr. Singh said the estimated population of senior citizens was projected to more than double by 2026.

“In keeping with the Indian tradition of looking after the aged and the elderly, we should ensure that our senior citizens feel secure, valued and honoured.”

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