Govt yet to appoint members, SC commission headless since May

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The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) has been a headless body for the past four months, as the Union government is yet to appoint office-bearers for the constitutional body set up to safeguard the rights of the marginalised communities.

The term of the team, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and a former Member of Parliament (MP) Ram Shankar Katheria as the chairperson and L Murugan as the vice-chairperson, came to an end in May.

Murugan has since been appointed as the president of the BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit.

A government functionary aware of the details said no meetings were held to discuss the names for the panel to head the constitutional body.

NCSC has the powers to investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the SCs under the Constitution. It also has the mandate to probe into specific complaints with respect to the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the SCs.

“The intervention of the commission is necessary and reassuring, if there is any laxity in probe or registering complaints during actions taken by the Central and state governments in cases involving atrocities against Dalits. The panel also ensures that compensation is paid to the victims,” said a former NCSC functionary, requesting anonymity.

The headless NCSC is a stark reminder amid two recent incidents of atrocities against Dalits.

The gang-rape and murder of a teenager (19) Dalit in Uttar Pradesh’s (UP) Hathras district was followed by reports of another Dalit woman was also brutalised in the state’s Balrampur district on Wednesday.

However, this is not the first time that the NCSC has been headless.

Katheria was appointed to the constitutional body in May 2017 after PL Punia’s tenure had ended in October 2016.

Bhalchandra Mungekar, a former Rajya Sabha (RS) MP from the Congress, said not reconstituting the commission shows “insensitivity and hypocrisy of the Union government”.

He said: “Keeping aside the qualitative and quantitative work that the panel did over a period of time, the formation of the commission is a statutory obligation of the government. The commission’s annual reports are tabled in Parliament along with the action taken reports (ATRs) by the government. This insensitivity towards the SCs is contrary to the government’s slogan of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas. SCs are the most deprived sections not only economically, but also socially, culturally, educationally and politically.”

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