The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Minority panel for probe teeth

Calcutta, April 2: The National Minorities’ Commission has recommended to the Union home ministry to give it investigative powers on the lines of the National Human Rights Commission and the state human rights commissions.

This was one of the most important changes in policy framed during a recent meet of the NMC and chairpersons of the state minorities’ commissions in New Delhi, where the tension that underlines the relationship between the National Democratic Alliance and some of the state commissions came through.

Union minister of state for home I.D. Swami found himself in the line of fire for trying to deflect the criticism of leaders of the fundamentalist Hindu organisations that form a part of the BJP-VHP-RSS parivar.

Responding to charges that the Union government was not treating the “communal venom” spouted by some Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders with “the seriousness due to it”, Swami found himself cornered when he sought to divert them on state governments because law and order was a “state subject”.

West Bengal Minorities’ Commission chairman Justice K.M. Yusuf fired another salvo when he complained of inadequate representation of minorities in the government agencies.

This time, Swami — according to other members present at the meeting — sought a route out by saying that it was because of their “low level of education”.

But this prompted a fresh fusillade from NMC and state minorities commissions members, who said that minorities, “at least”, were qualified enough to get group-D jobs or work in police as constables or in the defence forces as jawans.

But, setting aside the debate, the meet worked towards some common points which — according to the officials present — should be implemented by the Centre. The most prominent among them was giving the NMC and the state panels investigative powers on the lines of the rights commissions.

Officials said the NMC and the SMCs were severely hampered by this deficiency.

The HRCs get senior police officials as investigative officers, giving them more teeth in their functioning and allowing them to place independent findings to state governments and the Centre for action, say officials.

“An independent investigative agency will allow us to probe serious issues as police officials, by virtue of their professional background, are better equipped to detect trouble and trouble-makers,” an SMC official said.

Another important recommendation the meet forwarded to the Union government involved asking state governments and the Centre to give “full justification” of their refusal to act on reports filed by the SMCs and the NMC.

“We have often found governments ignoring our suggestions without showing any reason,” an official present at the meet said. “This should stop as this tends to undermine the work we are doing,” he explained.

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