The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Spotlight on crime against Dalits

New Delhi, Jan. 11: A conference organised by the social justice and empowerment ministry today took up the atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Tribes, especially Dalits.

Social justice minister Meira Kumar pointed out that the conviction rate in cases registered under the Protection of Civil Rights Act is a mere 3.75 per cent. Besides, 75 to 77 per cent cases of crimes against Dalits remain pending despite the existence of special and designated courts.

Union home minister Shivraj Patil, who was also present at the conference, acknowledged that the system was not delivering justice and existing laws safeguarding the rights of backward classes may have to be changed or tightened.

Between 1998 and 2002, the number of crimes against Scheduled Castes, in violation of the Protection of Civil Rights Act and the Prevention of Atrocities Act, shot up from 724 and 7,443 to 1,018 and 10,770.

In the case of Scheduled Tribes, the number of crimes under the Prevention of Atrocities Act rose from 709 to 1,800 in this period. In 2003, 90 per cent of crimes registered under the Act happened in nine states ' Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.

Dalit activists have been persistently underlining the need to enforce existing laws and also get new ones enacted to remove caste prejudices and improve their lot.

A group of Dalit activists met in Bhopal three years ago and laid down a charter of demands, which later came to be known as the Bhopal Declaration.

It demanded that reservation for SCs and STs be applicable in public and private educational institutions from primary to technical and professional levels.

'Every SC/ST child with low income base must have free, quality education at the state's expense,' was the declaration demand.

It also asked for affirmative action from the private sector. 'Reservation should be made mandatory in the private and corporate sector,' it said.

The UPA government has not taken any step for private sector job reservations so far.

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