December 14, 2016 4:25:56 am
The national commissions pertaining to Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Safai Karamcharis are all presently headless as the NDA government is yet to make any appointments after the terms of the serving chairpersons or the commission itself came to an end.
The heads of these commissions are political appointees. Until now, the serving chairpersons have been appointed by the UPA government.
The posts for the chairpersons of both the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes have been vacant since the second three-year term of P L Punia and Dr Rameshwar Oraon, respectively, came to an end in October 2016. Justice V Eswaraiah, chairperson of the National Commission for Other Backward Classes, had to step down after his term ended in September 2016. The post has remained vacant since then, even as his application for an extension is pending with the union government. As for the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, the tenure of the previous commission, including chairperson M Sivanna, the vice-chairperson and three members, got over in April 2016. No fresh appointments have been made to the commission till date.
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“These are all significant commissions that deal with caste-based discrimination but the government doesn’t think it is important. Every week, the SC Commission hears over 20 complaints, mostly pertaining to caste atrocities. There is no indication from the government that any process is on for making the appointments,” former SC commission chairman Punia told The Indian Express. The functioning of the SC commission has come to a standstill as the posts of vice-chairperson and one of the three members are also vacant.
The posts of chairperson and vice-chairperson of the ST Commission became vacant in November and those of its three members have been vacant for over two years. Similarly, while no decision has been made by the government on extending the term of Justice Eswaraiah, who chairs the OBC commission, the term of the remaining three members will end soon.
M Sivanna, former chairperson of the Safai Karamchari commission, said the body plays an important role in ensuring that the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers Act is implemented. “Even with the focus on Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Dalits are employed as manual scavengers. The commission tours the country and acts against the discrimination faced by them. However, since April, the government has not bothered to reconstitute the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis,” said Sivanna.
The Ministry of Social Justice, which is in charge of such appointments, did not comment.
Punia, who had earlier rubbished the government’s stance on Hyderabad University student Rohith Vemula not being a Dalit, said that ministry insiders simply state that the list of recommendations for appointments to these posts has been long pending before the PMO.
“The commission is a constitutional requirement under Article 338. It monitors whether all safeguards for Scheduled Castes are implemented and also brings out periodic reports on violations. However, the PMO still seems to be figuring out who from the RSS cadre should take over all the vacant posts in the commissions,” said Punia.
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