Caste discrimination charge to be probed

S. Vijay Kumar

17 reserved village panchayat chiefs have complained of untouchability

MADURAI: An inquiry has been ordered into allegations of caste-based discrimination at reserved village panchayats in Madurai district.

Presidents of at least 17 reserved village panchayats have complained of untouchability and caste-based discrimination in their villages. In a printed format, they have acknowledged discrimination at teashops, restriction in access to public places and residential colonies of caste Hindus.

Collector S. S. Jawahar and Superintendent of Police T.S. Anbu held a meeting with senior officials late on Monday. "We have asked the Deputy Superintendents of Police and Revenue Divisional Officers to visit all the 83 reserved panchayats independently and record statements from the panchayat presidents. If there is any aberration, we will take appropriate action," he told The Hindu on Tuesday.

Administration firm

The officials would check how Dalit panchayat presidents were being treated in the reserved panchayats. "We are prepared to throw our weight behind the panchayat presidents to prove that the district administration is with them. The Government is keen in ensuring social justice and also to empower the reserved panchayat presidents to function independently and to the expectations of villagers," Mr. Jawahar said.

Sources in the district administration said the Government had asked the Collector to inquire into the allegations of reserved panchayat presidents and submit a report.

Police warning

Additional Director-General of Police A. Subramanian warned of stern action against those indulging in caste-based discrimination. Surprise checks would be conducted in select villages in Madurai and its adjoining districts to check alleged "untouchability" practices. The police would book those found guilty under the provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Mr. Subramanian, who is holding additional charge as Inspector-General of Police (South Zone), said Superintendents of Police in the southern districts had been advised to keep a watch on caste-sensitive reserved village panchayats. "The police will work closely with the district administration in ensuring that there is no practice of untouchability in any form. We have not received any specific complaint so far."

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