Activists demand more deliberations on provisions

The proposed legislation in Karnataka to accord statutory status to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes sub-plan, expected to make some significant departures from the law in Andhra Pradesh, is unlikely to be tabled in the current session of the legislature.

Among the significant departures in the proposed Karnataka draft Bill from the Andhra Pradesh legislation is that any public servant will be liable for imprisonment up to six months for failure to implement the provisions under it. Also, while the Andhra Pradesh Act is to lapse after 10 years, no timeframe has been fixed in the draft legislation in Karnataka.

These apart, there are differences in the administrative machinery to be put in place for implementation of the legislation. For instance, the nodal department for monitoring both the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe sub-plans would be the Department of Social Welfare in Karnataka. In Andhra Pradesh, the nodal agencies are the Social Welfare Department and the Tribal Welfare Ministry.

Complaints

The legislation was necessitated because there were persistent complaints that funds allocated under the Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan and the Tribal Sub-Plan, fixed according to the population size of the communities, were either not being utilised fully or were being diverted. Dalit activists in Karnataka, while happy that legislation is being proposed, have expressed their concern over some aspects of the draft Bill and shared them with Social Welfare Minister H. Anjaneya in a meeting held last week.

Organisations such as Dalit Bahujan Movement (DBM) and Human Rights Forum for Dalit Liberation (HRFDL) contend that gender perspective was missing in the draft Bill.

They have demanded that 50 per cent of all allocated funds be set aside for the development of Dalit and Adivasi women. They have also said that general schemes and infrastructure projects should not be accounted under the sub-plans.

“Besides, there is a need to include non-government players, such as experts, activists and NGO representatives, in various committees to be formed under the proposed Act,” said Basavaraj Kowtal, State convener of the HRFDL.

M. Venkatesh of DBM added that there should be provision for prioritising the most downtrodden and untouchables within the SC and ST categories.

The two organisations have also proposed additional administrative mechanisms such as creation of additional secretary post at district level under the Social Welfare Department to implement the proposed Act.

Delegation to Belgaum

Community leaders and activists would be going in a delegation to Belgaum, where the winter session of the legislature is currently on, to speak to MLAs on the need for improving on the draft of the Bill. They had earlier hoped that the Bill would be tabled before December 6, the death anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar.

“The Karnataka Bill should have improved upon the Andhra Pradesh legislation rather than follow it. There should be more thinking on the proposed legislation,” Mr. Venkatesh said.

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