Friday, March 16, 2012

[ZESTCaste] I am not after any post... I was happy as a teacher: Jyoti Panigrahi

I am not after any post... I was happy as a teacher: Jyoti Panigrahi
Ashok Pradhan, TNN | Mar 16, 2012, 06.58AM IST

The alleged gang rape of a 19-year-old Dalit girl from Pipili has
dominated state politics for over two months. State Commission for
Women chairperson Jyoti Panigrahi too found herself caught in the
political fight over the issue recently when she, in her inquiry
report, said she found no evidence of rape on the victim. She
discusses the case and other issues with Ashok Pradhan.

Q-When will you give your second report in the Pipili case?

A-The media reports about my submitting another report concerning the
19-year-old Dalit girl from Pipili are baseless. I am not going to do
that. Though I have complete faith in the judiciary and the ongoing
inquiry by the crime branch, if I feel that the commission's
intervention is needed at any stage to ensure justice to the girl, I
will do so. For example, concrete action is yet to be taken against
doctors who neglected the girl from the very beginning. I have
recommended the government to take action against the erring doctors
in all the three hospitals where the victim went for treatment.

Q-Why did you give your report in the case in haste?

A-That is not true. The AIIMS doctors and the National Commission for
Scheduled Castes took lesser time to come to a conclusion in the case.
I took around three weeks after the victim's family approached me in
January. My officers and members duly interacted with her family.
Questions were raised as to why I did not go to her village. I had met
the girl and her family when they approached me and later in the
hospital. I went through all the material evidence available before
me. Three weeks were enough time. I wanted to clear the air over false
propaganda in the case at the earliest. The subsequent reports only
established that I was right. Unnecessary political colours were added
to it because of the impending panchayat election then, though I never
faced or entertained any political meddling.

Q-Why did you give the report days ahead of panchayat poll?

A-The timing was not deliberate to give political advantages or
disadvantages to any party. I did my duty with all sincerity and
submitted the report when it was ready in February. Panchayat poll
happened to be scheduled around that time. It only gave fodder to
opposition political parties to take to the streets. But my conscience
always told me that a girl battling for life should not be
unnecessarily branded a rape victim. It will be an injustice on her
and her family more than anybody else.

Q-Are you lobbying for a Rajya Sabha seat?

A-I never aspired for any post. I was happy as a teacher and now as
chairperson of the commission. I do my assigned duty honestly. I am
sure chief minister Naveen Patnaik will name the best candidates for
the Rajya Sabha. I was never in the reckoning for the post and am
content doing my current job to the best of my ability. I will
continue to do my job as efficiently as I can till the time I occupy
this seat.

Q-How are you able to ensure justice to victims approaching you with
the limited powers conferred on the SCW?

A-I am trying my best. But obviously, the government should confer
more powers on the commission. The SCW chairperson whose rank is
comparable with a principal secretary should be given a cabinet
minister status. Then, officers would listen to the chairperson more
seriously. Currently, the commission has to make requests to them. If
given a cabinet minister's status, she will be in a position to give
orders. So many other states have given their commissions the rank of
a cabinet minister or that of a minister of state. It is high time
Odisha followed suit.

Q-What are the functional difficulties of SCW?

A-Of the six members, posts of two members are lying vacant for over
two years since I joined the SCW in 2011. These should be filled up.
The commission needs technological up-gradation to dispose of cases
early. It should be computerized and the staff should be given
computer training. We also need at least two more counsellors. The
chairperson should have at least a full-time secretary so that her
office remains open even when she is on tour. The commission has two
dilapidated old cars. It is difficult to move around the state and
attend to the victims everywhere.

Q-At least 12,400 cases are pending in the commission. How will you
clear the backlog?

A-We are trying to end the pendency by working hard. But with
popularity of the commission, the number of cases is on the rise. We
are getting around 300 cases per month. Since its inception in 1993,
the commission has registered 47,383 cases and has disposed 34,986 of
them. That is not a small achievement. The government should fill up
the posts and improve the infrastructure so that the commission
becomes more efficient.

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