HRF Meet On Need To Protect SC, ST (POA) Act

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) is organising a public meeting focusing upon the need to preserve and protect the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The meeting will be held at the Visakhapatnam Public Library in Dwarakanagar from 10 am on 11.04.2010 (Sunday). The meet is part of a State-wide campaign by the HRF to highlight the need for better implementation of the Act.

It is now 20 years since Parliament enacted this important legislation. The SC, ST (POA) Act was aimed at preventing and eliminating atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis with express provisions for the protection, compensation and rehabilitation of the victims of caste bias and punishment for perpetrators of violence. However, implementation of this progressive legislation has remained very weak and discrimination and atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis continue on a day-today basis across the country.

The available data is truly alarming. More than 62,000 human rights violations, some of them extremely heinous, are recorded against Dalits annually in our country. An average of two Dalits are assaulted every hour, two murdered and at least an equal number tortured or burned every day. There are millions of SC/ST children working as child labour. About 80 to 90 percent Dalits who work as bonded labour do so in order to pay off their debt while about an estimated 800,000 are still engaged in manual scavenging. Dalit women in India face the triple burden of caste, class and gender with an average of three Dalit women and children raped every day.

While the SC, ST (POA) Act constitutes a landmark in the struggle of and for the rights of SCs and STs, both the law enforcement and welfare agencies of the government as well as the judiciary has failed in properly implementing it. In our State, not even about 20 per cent of reported incidents of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis are being registered under the SC, ST (PoA) Act. Even these cases are sometimes not registered under proper sections, investigation is often deliberately shoddy and the rate of conviction abysmal.

Judiciary is generally considered to be the last ray of hope for the dispossessed and victimised. However, the conviction rate of crimes against Dalits is extremely low at only about 2.31 per cent at the all-India level, while the number of acquittals is six times more. Over 70 per cent cases are still pending.

The SC, ST (POA) Act has helped Dalits and Adivasis to some extent but a lot more needs to be done. Apart from social awareness and education to change a pervasive anti-Dalit mindset, the law needs more teeth as well as provisions for better implementation and stringent actions against violators. HRF feels there is a crying need for a concerted fight against all sources of discrimination, inequality and exclusion in our society.

We appeal to all democratic-minded citizens to participate in Sunday’s meeting.

VS Krishna
HRF State general secretary


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