Special Correspondent

JAIPUR: Dalit activists here have called for an urgent review of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and introduction of amendments to provide more teeth to the statute while classifying acts such as discrimination, social and economic boycott and blackmail as crimes under the legislation.

Making the demands at a symposium marking completion of 20 years of the SC/ST (PoA) Act here over the weekend, representatives of Dalit organisations regretted that despite the law having been in force for two decades, atrocities against Dalits were increasing and the authorities responsible for implementing the Act were seen siding with the perpetrators of crime.

The symposium was organised jointly by Jaipur-based Centre for Dalit Rights, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights and the National Dalit Movement for Justice.

The SC/ST (PoA) Act, which received Presidential assent on September 11, 1989, and came into effect on January 30, 1990, invests the State actors with the responsibility to prevent atrocities and provide protection, relief and rehabilitation to the affected people belonging to SC and ST.

CDR Director Satish Kumar said the National Crime Records Bureau’s figures had revealed that 71 per cent of the atrocities against Dalits and tribals reported between 1995 and 2007 were not registered under the Act. Even in matters where the Act was applied, proper sections were not used, investigation took more than 30 days and compensation was not paid.

The participants noted with dismay that the rate of conviction under the SC/ST (PoA) Act was less than that under the Indian Penal Code. They said the criminals booked under the Act could be handed down punishment commensurate with the crime after conviction only if the legislation was strengthened through suitable amendments.

Dalit organisations have submitted draft amendments to the Union Government after wide-ranging discussions with a cross-section of civil society.

A National Coalition for Strengthening of SC/ST (PoA) Act was also formed in September last year.