CHENNAI: Numerous State-level committees for the welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have been constituted by the State Government. Some are hastily formed, forced into existence by a court order or the other and many, exist only on paper, claim activists.
On April 24 , 2017, a GO was passed constituting a State-level monitoring committee for prevention of employment as manual scavengers. While the order stated that the committee should meet twice a year, not only had the meetings not been held so far, but some of its members claimed they did not know they have been listed as members.
The GO listed two Dalit MLAs K Kathirkamu and V Kasthuri Vasu as members of the said committee, along with 24 others. However, when Express contacted Kasthuri Vasu, representing Valparai constituency, she said she was not aware of being a member of the committee, in the first place. “If it is true that I’m a member, I have not been called for any meeting,” she said.
Said ‘Paadam’ A Narayanan, a social activist, “The committee itself has been constituted after we applied pressure to government by going to court.”
He added that the State-level monitoring committee aside, district vigilance committees formed under the district Collectors also continue to remain merely on paper. “Only 15 districts have reported to have constituted vigilance committees. Even in rare cases where these committees hold meetings, they are not documented and there is no way to monitor if meetings are held,” he said.
Meanwhile, with a shortage of over 8,000 Sanitary Inspectors in local bodies, including Greater Chennai Corporation, the monitoring system is fundamentally broken, said Narayanan. Sanitary Inspectors are empowered under the Act, to take cognizance of violations.
Similarly, according to GO 29 dated April 21, 2017, the State Level Adi Dravidar Welfare Committee, is to meet twice a year. However, the committee has not met since the time of its constitution, members said.
“The committee should have met, headed by the Chief Minister, who is the chairperson. However, since April, we have not received any calls,” said a member of the committee, requesting anonymity.
GO (43) dated June 2, 2017, listed former legislator CK Tamilarasan as one of the members for this State level committee.
Said Tamilarasan, “I have only heard from people around me that I’m a member, I have received no official intimation so far. For people like us there are hardly any forums to discuss Adi Dravidar issues with even a constitutional convention like this panel remaining inactive.”
The panel is responsible for monitoring and suggesting methods to improve functioning of Adi Dravidar welfare schools, monitoring infrastructure maintenance in hostels run by the department along with monitoring reservations in educational institutions and in Government offices. “The committee has also not been involved in spot visits, in case of violations,” said the member.
Said Karuppaiah S, state president of All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations, “In many cases, members of the committee are also unaware of the laws governing the rights of the oppressed since a large number of them are associated with political parties.”
According to retired IAS officer, Christodas Gandhi, several other committees, including the Bonded Labour Abolition Committee, district level committees for implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, continue to remain only on paper.
When Express contacted P. Annamalai, Principal Secretary, Adi Dravidar Welfare Department in August last year, he had responded that the meetings could not be conducted according to schedule as the Assembly session was in progress. KV Muralidharan, Director of Adi Dravidar Welfare, remained unavailable for comment.