Dalit watchdogs headless, lack bite

11 months ago 37
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NEW DELHI: As atrocities against Dalits roil the nation, there is no

constitutional watchdog

in place to provide independent oversight to the investigations to ensure they are carried out fairly and with due diligence.
The National Commission for Scheduled Castes has been headless for over four months. The term of the chairman and four members expired in the last week of May, after which the Modi government has not appointed the replacements.
Two other crucial watchdogs — National Commission for Scheduled Tribes and National Commission for Safai Karamcharis — are also lying vacant, with appointments not made after the end of the terms of their chairpersons and members. The NCST is a constitutional body like the

NCSC

which acts as national monitor and grievance redressal body for the tribals. The term of the two ended in February-March.
The last set of NCSC office-bearers had BJP MP Ram Shankar Katheria as chairman and L Murugan, K Ramulu, Yogendra Paswan and Swaraj Vidwan as members.
The process of appointment of office-bearers to these quasi-judicial bodies is essentially political with the party in office nominating its choices. As a result, it does not entail serious procedural issues as in some watchdogs like the National Human Rights Commission which can only be chaired by retired justices of the Supreme Court or higher courts.
The absence of chairman and members means the NCSC is run by the bureaucracy, which makes it toothless. However, sources said the panel headquarters and its Lucknow office have issued notices seeking status report from Hathras district administration and

Yogi Adityanath

government on the rape-murder of a Dalit girl which has triggered a national outrage.
As the panel is lying defunct for four months, sources said the

Union ministry of social justice

and empowerment is yet to get any indication about the new office-bearers.
The “Safai Karamchari panel”, which is also lying defunct, is mandated to suggest measures for amelioration of the lives of people engaged in cleaning work and to act on grievances about non-implementation of schemes and rules about them.

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