NHRC will hold an open public hearing on various issues relating to atrocities and problems faced by Scheduled Castes on the 9th April, 2012 at Puri, Odisha
New Delhi, April 4th, 2012
The National Human Rights Commission, set up under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 with a mandate to promote and protect human rights in the country, has always paid particular attention to the needs of the weakest sections of Indian society, among whom the Scheduled Castes are among the most vulnerable. Their human rights have been systematically violated for centuries, and, despite the protection now formally afforded to them by the Constitution and the law, including the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, they continue to suffer discrimination, while their socio-economic condition remains a matter of the gravest concern.
Special care is both needed and justified for them, and therefore the Commission takes suo motu cognizance of reports of atrocities committed against or problems faced by these communities, deals on priority with complaints it receives of human rights violations committed against them and works closely with other key stakeholders, including the NGOs who champion their cause, to try to get them justice and to bring them redress.
Because the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes suffer from a prejudice that is so deeply entrenched, both the general public and public servants need to be made aware of the scale of the problem, and of their responsibilities under the law to protect and promote their rights. The Commission therefore holds regular training programmes and workshops, and has published booklets, to encourage all stakeholders to work together to ensure that there are no atrocities committed on these communities, that there is no discrimination against them, or any other violation of their human rights.
In December, 2007, together with the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, the Commission organised a National Consultation on "Strengthening Civil Society Initiatives for Scheduled Castes" at New Delhi. It took a decision to launch awareness campaigns in four districts which had a high record of atrocities against Scheduled Castes: senior officials from the Commission went to Bharatpur in Rajasthan and Faridabad in Haryana and a member of the Commission visited Jaipur and Ajmer in Rajasthan.
The Commission also asked Shri K.B. Saxena, IAS (Retd.) to carry out a study on the continuing problems faced by the Scheduled Castes and to make recommendations to tackle and remove these. The report of the very comprehensive study that Shri Saxena conducted is available on the Commission's website www.nhrc.nic.in.
Among the recommendations Shri Saxena made was one that the Commission organise at least one open hearing a year
"where the victims of major atrocities can present their experiences and grievances in seeking justice from Government agencies and human rights bodies/non-governmental organizations/social workers and activists may apprise the Commission of difficulties encountered by them in taking up their complaints. In the interaction with the State Government subsequent to the hearing, the Commission may convey its observations and advice on various actions to be taken for effective enforcement of law, sustaining confidence of victims and, where required, looking into the conduct of officials coming in for adverse reference during the hearing. The follow up action on the hearings may be monitored."
Following up on this recommendation, the Commission will hold an open hearing at 10.00 A.M. at Puri, Odisha on the 9th April, 2012, where any victim or human rights defender can voice their grievances and outline the problems they face in seeking justice from Government agencies. This will be the first public engagement of a team from the Commission, headed by Shri Satyabrata Pal, Member, which is visiting Odisha from the 9th to the 12th April, 2012 to discuss with the Chief Secretary and his colleagues major outstanding cases pertaining to the State.
The issues raised at the hearing in Puri, and in a meeting with members of civil society in Bhubaneswar on the afternoon of the 9th April, will be among those that the Commission's team will take up with the senior officials of the State, who will be urged to give these their urgent attention and work for their very early resolution. The Commission will stay engaged with these problems and monitor the implementation of any assurances given by the State.