Dalits account for almost over 20 per cent of the population in State
Tamil Nadu has a commission each for women, minorities, backward classes and also for human rights. But in a State where Dalits account for almost over 20 per cent of the population, Tamil Nadu is yet to constitute a commission for the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs).
In the absence of a State-level body, the national commission for the SC/ST has set up a branch in Tamil Nadu, but political leaders working among Dalits argue that the State should set up a commission to prevent atrocities against the community.
“Though Tamil Nadu is projecting itself as a land of social justice, the status of Dalits and minorities in Tamil Nadu is worse than what obtains in places like Gujarat. Today more people belonging to these communities languish in prisons and the data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) clearly support our case. A State-level commission is the need of the hour,” stressed Ravikumar former MLA and general secretary of the Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi (VCK).
Mr. Ravikumar said regimes under both the DMK and the AIADMK never seriously considered the demand for a State-level commission, and repeated pleas only fell on deaf ears.
“When such commissions are constituted the first beneficiaries will be the faithful – they will be peopled by whoever is loyal to the ruling party of the day. Still we don’t grudge that, for the very existence of such a body could make some difference,” he said.
Asked what purpose a commission that functions to legitimise the acts of a government would serve, Mr. Ravikumar replied, “If not today, one day such bodies may get real powers.”
P. Sampath, president of the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF), said an SC/ST commission on the lines of the one functioning in Andhra Pradesh alone could prove effective.
“It should be empowered with adequate legal powers not only to investigate, but also to take action against those who unleash violence and attacks against Dalits,” he said.
Puthiya Tamizhagam MLA Krishnasamy said SC/ST commission was must at a time when atrocities against the Dalits were assuming new forms, such as honour killings. “Besides investigating into the complaints, it can also monitor the socio-economic status of the Dalits and the schemes implemented for the welfare of the community,” he said.
Pointing out even the SC/ST vigilance cell had not met for the last three years, Dr. Krishnasamy said even if the SC/ST commission remained an organisation only on paper, it would be a morale booster for Dalits.