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    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 45, Dated 10 Nov 2012

    Headless bodies, heedless state

    With top posts in state commissions lying vacant, the aggrieved have no one to turn to, says Jaiprakash Tripathi

    Major vacuum UP’s Minorities Commission is yet to get its chairman and vice-chairman

    Photo: Pramod Adhikari

    SEVEN MONTHS after the Samajwadi Party (SP) came to power in Uttar Pradesh, important posts in the state commissions for women, minorities, SCs/STs and other backward classes (OBCs) are still vacant. State commission offices in some districts do not even have regular members, leading to a huge backlog of complaints. A surprising state of affairs, as newly formed governments usually lose no time in appointing people of their choice to these key positions.

    Party insiders admit this is a result of differences within the leadership. Says an insider on condition of anonymity: “Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had drawn up a list of appointees, but it fell through because leaders like Shivpal Singh Yadav, Ram Gopal Yadav and Azam Khan did not agree. They wanted to appoint those who couldn’t get a party ticket in the Assembly elections.”

    Besides some top guns in the party, many young leaders from Akhilesh’s core committee are also in the race. Eyeing the Lok Sabha elections, the high command is not willing to fill the posts in a hurry, seeking to maintain harmony within the SP. For that, the party had even opted out of the local body elections, fearing camp feuds over ticket allotment.

    However, for the common man, this stalemate has resulted in a surge of pending complaints. Take the case of the SC/ST Commission. In July this year, Mangre Prasad, a retired Dalit schoolteacher from Jagtapur, Gonda district, was thrashed by upper caste landowners for daring to return to farming. “Instead of filing an FIR, cops at the police station asked me to go to a private hospital for treatment,” says Prasad. He was later assured of action by the Gonda Superintendent of Police, but when that didn’t happen, Prasad approached the State SC/ST Commission. But as the commission has neither a chairman nor members, there’s little hope of him getting any relief.

    Hundreds like Prasad land up at the commission office every day only to return disappointed. PL Puniya, chairman of the National Commission for SCs, says, “Keeping these posts empty shows Dalits are nowhere on the government’s agenda.”

    The same is the case with the commissions for minorities, women and OBCs, where the top posts have been vacant since March. These commissions are supposed to step in when police or the administration fails. An employee of the State Women’s Commission told TEHELKA they receive around 50-60 complaints daily, but most are left unattended. “Each time I’ve come here in the past five months, the hearing was deferred to the next month,” says Leelawati, a victim of domestic violence from Lakhimpur.

    The former president of UP Congress, Rita Bahuguna Joshi, laments the state of the commissions under the SP regime: “A proactive Women’s Commission could curb incidents of violence against women, but here the panchayats deal with rape cases.”

    ‘Each time I come here, my hearing date is deferred by a month,’ says Leelawati

    Though the minorities and OBC commissions have secretaries, their roles are rather limited. “Knowing the top offices are empty, people have stopped coming. They send in their complaints by post,” says Minorities Commission Secretary SP Farukhi. As secretaries are not authorised to hold hearings, the complaints are sent to district-level officers. If a probe by a senior authority is unsatisfactory, the secretaries can do nothing about it, unlike a chairperson who can turn the heat on the authorities.

    PEACE PARTY president Mohammad Ayub says, “Although Mulayam Singh and Akhilesh say minorities played a big role in bringing them to power, the vacant posts in the Minorities Commission show their insensitivity towards the minorities.”

    However, SP spokesperson Rajendra Chowdhry claims the party is still looking for the right people to appoint. “We have a lot of names for the posts. Soon, we will be appointing the right people,” he says.

    The reluctance to fill up key positions has raised serious questions about the SP’s intent in delivering justice and respecting the people’s mandate. After all, the government is accountable for the taxpayers’ money used to run the commissions.

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    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 45, Dated 10 Nov 2012



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