Expressing shock over less than 30 per cent conviction rate for cases of atrocities against SCs and STs, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday asked State Governments to give more attention to the issue and said court cases related to such matters should be “pursued on priority”.

“Reports of atrocities against SCs, STs and senior citizens continue to appear with disturbing regularity. I have in fact written to the Chief Ministers of all states recently to enforce the provisions of the SCs and STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

“It is shocking that conviction rate for cases of atrocities against SCs and STs is less than 30 per cent against the average of 42 per cent for all cognisable offences under IPC. The state governments need to give more attention to this issue,” he said inaugurating a conference of state ministers of welfare and social justice here.

Dr. Singh told them to conduct meetings of state and district level vigilance committees on a regular basis and said that court cases should be pursued on priority.

Focussing on the need to change the general mindset towards disadvantaged groups, the Prime Minister said such people should be made equal partners in the developmental processes.

“We propose to amend the Persons with Disabilities Act in consultation with states so as to bring it in line with the UN Convention (on Rights of Persons with Disabilities),” he said.

Referring to the drought like situation prevailing in many parts of the country, Singh said, "the experience has been that weaker sections tend to be the worst affected by such natural calamities.

"We, therefore, need to step up monitoring and implementation of welfare schemes like NREGA, Annapurna and Old Age Pension Scheme, which target the weaker sections."

He said the government plans to take up a new scheme from this year on a pilot basis namely, 'Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana' for integrated development of 1,000 villages, each having more than 50 per cent SC population.

The scheme aims at implementation of various development projects in these villages, with an additional fund of Rs 10 lakh per village to meet those requirements that cannot be met from existing schemes, he said, adding that if the pilot scheme is successful, then it could be expanded.

On the mobility problems faced by disabled persons, the Prime Minister said educational and healthcare institutions, government offices and banks, should be made more accessible.

"Small steps like ramps... actually go a long way in this direction," he said.

Dr. Singh called on the Ministry of Communications and IT to promote development of user friendly software in all Indian languages.

"Our websites need to be more user friendly for disabled people and I am happy that the ministry for social justice has made a beginning in this regard. The National Institute of Design should be urged to encourage the design of everyday appliances and instruments that cater to people with various disabilities," he said.

With the economy emerging from its slowdown phase, the Prime Minister urged the corporate sector to "respond handsomely" to the scheme to promote employment of disabled persons in the private sector.

Referring to the self-employment scheme for rehabilitation of manual scavengers, a programme run by the ministry for social justice, he said, "I am told that more than half of the identified beneficiaries under the scheme are yet to be rehabilitated.

"States should be more proactive in implementing scholarships and hostel schemes for SCs, STs and OBCs."

He said disability certificates should be issued within a month of the date of application.

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said focus of 11th Plan is on inclusive growth and both the Centre and the states should work together to achieve the objective of helping socially disadvantaged groups.

"In the Planning Commission, we have been implementing the SC sub-plan and are engaged with other ministries to ensure its implementation," he said.

Noting that the compliance of states was "not satisfactory", he said the Commission has written to Chief Ministers that their annual plans would be cleared only if they implement the SC sub-plan properly.

Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik said effectiveness of ongoing schemes must be enhanced and there should be a strategic partnership with civil society, industry and the government to provide social justice.

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