Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has formulated a Scheme to institute a National Award for such Non-Governmental Organisations and Human Rights Activists who are doing outstanding work in the area of eradicating untouchability and combating offences of atrocities against Scheduled Castes. This was disclosed by Smt. Meira Kumar, Union Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment, while presiding over the meeting of Committee constituted for effective coordination to develop ways and means to curb offences of untouchability and atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The meeting also reviewed the implementation of the protection of Civil rights Act, 1955 and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

The Minister emphasized that to contain offences of atrocities on SCs and STs and untouchability, it is essential to bring about attitudinal changes with collective efforts of NGOs and civil society at large. Since Inter-caste marriages are an effective instrument of combating the evil practice of casteism, she said, “I have also addressed the chief Ministers of States on 28.02.2006 to consider increase in the incentive amount for inter-caste marriages to Rs.50,000/- and we would provide central assistance to bear 50% of total expenditure”.

Smt. Kumar further mentioned that the results of the persistent efforts of the UPA Government are visible in increase in conviction rate in respect of cases under POA Act, from 10.35% in 2002 to 15.71% in 2004. The number of cases has also declined from 27,894 in 2002 to 23,629 in 2004. She stated that the implementation of the Act was also reviewed in two days Conference of State Welfare Secretaries, held on 14th and 15th Sept., 2006 and she had expressed concern about difficulties faced by atrocity victims in getting FIR registered as well as poor quality of prosecution. In this regard, it was suggested that since identified atrocity prone areas are in interiors with no road linkages, therefore, concerned State Governments on priority should provide proper road linkage to such areas with National Highways, so that facility for proper transportation is created. Steps should also be taken for overall development of these areas, which may include effective implementation of PMGRY and providing House Sites, she added.

The Minister highlighted that though the collective efforts of the Government has resulted in arresting the overall increase in offences, yet in the year 2004, maximum number of offences of atrocities occurred in Rajasthan, followed by Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. As the states did not respond positive to the suggestion of setting up the Toll Free Helpline, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes has been permitted to install a Toll Free connection at its Headquarters, she informed. Whenever any complaint is received, the Commission would pursue it though its field offices and take it to the logical conclusion, so that the victim gets fair and humane treatment and the accused are brought to book.