“Government to bring amendments into atrocities Act in Budget session”

Folk artistes from Andhra Pradesh performing at the National Dalit Adivasi Sammelan at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi on Friday.— Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Folk artistes from Andhra Pradesh performing at the National Dalit Adivasi Sammelan at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi on Friday.— Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar  

The Union Government will bring in amendments to the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, during the Budget session of Parliament next year.

Addressing a National Dalit Adivasi Sammelan at Ramlila Maidan here on Friday, Union Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment Kumari Selja said the Act needed urgent amendments in order to plug loopholes in its implementation.

Noting that Dalit victims find it “very difficult” to get cases registered, Ms. Selja said: “Even if the victims somehow manage to register their cases, they do not get justice in the end. Overall, the conviction rate in these cases is shameful.”

The Minister said the draft of the amendment is in its last stage of consultation.

“It will be very difficult to bring the amendments in the current session, so we are trying our best to get them tabled in the Budget session,” she said.

All-India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch general secretary Asha Kotwal said: “The crucial gaps in the scope of the Act and its enforceability by law and order agencies is highlighted by the fact that every 15 minute four Dalits and adivasis are subjected to atrocities. Three Dalit women are raped, two murdered and 11 beaten up every day. Five Dalit houses are set on fire and six Dalits kidnapped every week. Going only by the cases registered, a total of 558,103 cases of atrocities have been filed in the last 15 years.”

National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights national convener Vijay Parmar argued that implementation of the Act has been impeded by social prejudices of government servants, including the police, making it convenient for violators to escape the arm of law.

“Evidence clearly reveals the brazen extent of injustice meted out to the Dalits and Adivasis, and the impunity enjoyed by the violators at the hands of enforcement machineries,” he added.

Rajya Sabha MP J.D. Seelam, who is also associated with the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes MPs’ forum which has been lobbying for amendments to the Act, said there are some “stupid and faulty provisions in the Act which state that crimes against Dalits will be registered under the present law only when they have been committed in ‘public view’ with ‘intention’. We want these to go through the amendments which we are expecting in the Budget session.”

The event, which was organised by the National Coalition for Strengthening the [Prevention of Atrocities] Act along with over 500 of its partner groups, saw leaders across the political spectrum extending their support for the amendments to the Act.

Union Ministers Krishna Tirath, Mukul Wasnik and Balram Naik, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechuri, Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan, Communist Party of India leader D. Raja and Congress MP P.L. Punia were among those who spoke to the gathering.

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