Friday, December 11, 2009

[ZESTCaste] SC-ST panel in disarray with bickering leaders

SC-ST panel in disarray with bickering leaders
Bageshree S.

K_MURALI_KUMAR Office of the Karnataka State Commission For Scheduled
Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Nrupatunga Road, Bangalore. Photo: K.
Murali Kumar
The Karnataka State Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled
Tribes is a classic example of how a special body set up for the
welfare of Dalits can end up being little more than a symbolic

The commission seems to be in disarray as internal differences are
cropping up and people at the helm have priorities beside the work of
the commission.

The sprawling premises of the commission on Nrupathunga Road, for
which the government pays a rent of Rs. 1.5 lakh per month, often
wears a deserted look barring a handful of clerical staff. Commission
chairperson Nehru C. Olekar has held no more than one meeting since he
took over in January, 2007, as revealed by a Right to Information
application by Rajanna, a former Panchayat member in Kebbepalya in
Yeshwantpur Hobli.

Being a sitting MLA from Haveri, Mr. Olekar is seen by some Dalit
groups as being too busy with work in his constituency to concentrate
on his job as the head of the commission.

What is further vitiating the atmosphere is the open animosity between
Mr. Olekar and the lone member of the commission, M. Kumbayya. In
fact, Mr. Olekar simply dismisses all allegations about his neglecting
his responsibilities in the commission as stemming from "instigation"
by the member.

In his letter to the Chief Minister on October 1, 2009, Mr. Olekar has
accused Mr. Kumbayya of indulging in corrupt practices, intimidating
people and "bringing a bad name to the commission". He has asked the
government to remove him from the post.

Mr. Kumbayya, on the other hand, flatly denies all these allegations
and claims that he has "on his own initiative" taken up several cases
of atrocities and inspection work and brought credibility to the
commission, which is otherwise dysfunctional.

The government is yet to appoint a second member for the commission,
and Mr. Olekar and Mr. Kumbayya are the only two nominated people to
the commission. With them looking in opposite directions, the plight
of the commission can only be imagined.

Mr. Olekar insists that he has been able to handle his work as MLA and
as head of the commission with dexterity. "I am here every Thursday or
Friday to hear cases in our special court," he says.

According to the statistics provided by him, he has held 48 sittings
in the State so far to hear cases related to SC/ST issues. Of these,
36 were scheduled in Bangalore. Of the 36, 23 were held and the others
adjourned for various reasons. Rudimentary mathematics indicates that
one sitting every week since he took over nearly three years ago
should add up to much more than 36 sittings!

Interestingly, among all the commissions set up by the government, the
SC and ST commission has the unique distinction of having sitting MLAs
officiating as heads. The first commission chairperson, Anjanamurthy,
was MLA from Nelamangala and served from January 2003 to March, 2004.
The post had remained vacant from then, until Mr. Olekar was appointed
in 2007.

"The government has neglected SC-ST Commission entirely and it shows
firstly in appointing a politician to the post, while it should be a
non-partisan person like a retired magistrate. This kind of neglect
amounts to an atrocity in itself," says Basavaraj Kowthal, convenor of
the Human Rights Federation for Dalit Liberation, one of the
organisations demanding a re-haul of the commission and its


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