Nudge to get SC, ST stamp on policy
SANJAY K. JHA
New Delhi, Feb. 22: The cabinet secretariat has issued a circular
instructing all ministries at the Centre to "mandatorily" consult the
national commissions for SCs and STs on any policy concerning the two
The Centre seems to have woken up to the wanton violation of this rule
by its own ministries and the states.
The circular, issued on February 16, said: "The ministries/departments
are advised to ensure that the National Commission for SCs or STs, as
the case may be, shall mandatorily be consulted by them before the
finalisation of notes for consideration of the cabinet."
The cabinet secretariat pointed out that the National Commission for
Scheduled Castes and also the one for the Scheduled Tribes have not
been consulted as envisaged under the Constitution on several major
policy matters affecting the two backward sections of the population.
The two commissions are the highest statutory bodies for the welfare
and protection of SCs and STs.
A separate directive will be sent to the states instructing them to
get all policy decisions that affect SCs and STs vetted by the two
The departments and ministries have to approach the commissions
through the administrative ministries under which the commissions
fall. The commission for SCs is under the administration of the social
welfare ministry. The ST commission falls under the tribal affairs
Going by the circular, if the home ministry wants to get a policy on
SCs vetted, it has to approach the social welfare ministry, which will
forward the policy to the SC commission.
The SC commission will get back to the home ministry through the
social welfare ministry. The circular carries another instruction.
It says the "unabridged/unedited views" given by the commission
concerned have to be attached with the cabinet note. This condition
has been put so that the ministries are unable to alter or interpret
the positions taken by the commissions.
The handbook on writing cabinet notes will be modified to include the circular.
Ministries generally ignore Section (9) of Article 338 of the
Constitution that says that "the Union and every state government
shall consult" the commissions.
The commissions, too, have been criticised for not carrying out their
responsibilities seriously and restricting themselves to the job of
investigating and monitoring atrocities against SCs and STs.
According to the provisions of Clause 5(c) of Article 338, the SC and
ST commissions are required to advise ministries on the planning
process for socio-economic development of the two sections and
evaluate the progress of the policies.
The commissions are also required to present to the President
annually, and whenever they deem fit, reports on the workings of
constitutional safeguards for SCs and STs.
But the commissions have functioned largely as decorative pieces. The
last time the commission for SCs was in the news was when it wanted to
block the release of Aarakshan which dealt with the issue of
reservation for backward sections.
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