Information obtained through Right to Information (RTI) Act has revealed that the mandatory half-yearly meetings of State-level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee on Scheduled Castes Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, to be chaired by the Chief Minister, happened only thrice since the act came into force in Tamil Nadu in 1995.
According to Madurai-based non-governmental organisation Evidence, which obtained the information, the minutes of the meetings showed that even the three were conducted in a superficial manner. To ensure effective implementation of the Act, which was passed in 1989 but came into force in only in 1995, Vigilance and Monitoring Committees are mandated to function at the State and district levels.
The objective is to periodically review cases filed under the Act, conviction rates, disbursal of compensation and other benefits to victims, and scrutiny of cases closed without filing of charge sheets.
Evidence had sought information on the number of meetings held at the State-level and their minutes. In its response, Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare department said meetings happened thrice between January 2010 and November 2018.
However, in the minutes of the meeting held on November 3, 2010, chaired by the then Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, he had recorded that the State and district-level committees were first formed in 2006. Stating that such meetings never happened in the past, K. Mahendran, former Perambur MLA and a member of the committee, thanked Mr. Stalin for arranging it for the first time, as per the minutes.
“It clearly shows that since 1995, there were no committees. Though constituted in 2006, the committee first met only in 2010,” said A. Kathir, executive director, Evidence.
The other two meetings happened on June 21, 2012 and June 25, 2013. The Chief Minister attended the 2013 meeting while the 2012 meeting was chaired by the Finance Minister.
Mr. Kathir said non-conduct of meetings and the manner in which the three meetings were conducted showed the scant regard the government had to preventing atrocities against Dalits.
“Most of the discussion points in the three meetings were on highlighting government’s welfare measures for Dalits. These meetings are exclusively for cases under the SC/ST (PoA) Act,” he said.
He said officials were justifying the poor conviction rates with frivolous reasons. “A senior police official in the 2010 meeting said conviction rates were poor since 90% of the cases were regarding verbal abuse and usually settled between the individuals. This is far from the truth,” he added.