Dalit law enforcers in taluks are clueless

BANGALORE: There's a law to tackle untouchability, but that hasn't helped much in eradicating the social stigma even in urban spaces. Reasons: Lack of proper enforcement and pro-active officers on the field.

A three-day capacity-building workshop on `Dalit rights and the laws' that started on Tuesday is trying to change this through discussions and legal awareness as well as training social welfare officers in taluks. The workshop at the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) has been organized by the Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP).

"Forget enforcement, not many officers on the job are themselves unaware of the law, which makes them less confident in enforcement,'' KVR Tagore, retired ADGP, directorate for civil right enforcement cell, pointed out.

Social welfare secretary E Venkataiah was equally forceful and lashed out against department officers for lacking knowledge and sincerity. "It's sad. Even more than 60 years after independence, we still need a workshop to educate officials. Many of them restrict themselves to their own area of work. They are a big zero when it comes understanding of related laws, for instance the Prevention of Atrocities (POA) Act.''

The inaugural session was a mixed bag of shouting problems and fixing long-term solutions. "Whatever welfare schemes implemented at district and state levels must be periodically reviewed at the monthly meetings of Karnataka development programmes. The performance of enforcing officials in the departments of social welfare, police and revenue should also be appraised,'' urban development department principal secretary D Thangaraj suggested.

Minister reacts to TOI report: Social welfare minister D Sudhakar reacted to the recent TOI reports on untouchability, which highlighted the findings of CSSEIP research studies. "The department will initiate appropriate action based on the final report. We need to make a start somewhere.''