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Caste scrutiny committees under stress

Nine do not have full-time chiefs.

Applicants for caste validation certificate at a citizen facilitation centre. (Source: Express file photo) Applicants for caste validation certificate at a citizen facilitation centre. (Source: Express file photo)

Almost 9 out of 15 caste scrutiny committees in the state are without a full-time chairman and 7 are without any full-time member.

Including economically weaker sections in the backward list is expected to increase the number of applications from Marathas and Muslims and push up applications by 2 lakh per year putting a strain on overworked scrutiny committees.

Officials fear it could lead to an overwhelming increase in fraudulent claimants.

In 2012, after Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Research and Training Institute (Barti) was given additional responsibility of coordination and administrative control of these 15 committees, various recommendations were made to high power committees to improve working of caste scrutiny committees. But despite secretaries of both social justice and tribal development departments heading the committee, recommendations were not implemented.

Among the recommendations were increasing caste scrutiny committees from 15 to 24. “All committees are already overworked and in firefighting mode. Marathas and Muslims (who can avail of the benefits) account for 44 per cent of the population. Those included for the first time are certain to apply. Already there is pendency of above 1 lakh. Hence our priority will be pending cases first,” said D R Parihar, director-general, Barti.

“We hope the government approves additional committees soon. Otherwise, at least the 15 committees should be given full time chairmen and members, if the government does not want the backward class to suffer. Already one chairman looks after 4-5 districts,” added Parihar.

As per the Supreme Court directives and as per law, three personnel including the chairman, member and member secretary should scrutinise a particular case and take a decision jointly. In entire Nagpur division, there is no full-time chairman. Wherever there is a vacancy in chairmanship, additional charge has been given to the other chairmen or members.

“Since all members and chairmen have additional charge, none can be present simultaneously in all places. Hence all cases are decided by obtaining signatures, one after the other, which is a very irresponsible and dangerous way to work. This results in bogus validity certificates,” said a high-ranking official who did not wish to be named.

“Another problem is that the September 1, 2012 rule book does not prescribe the format of caste validity certificate of Muslims and Marathas. Hence even if students apply, the scrutiny committees cannot give any certificates till the time an ordinance is passed and is incorporated in the rule book. Every year, almost 6 lakh applications come into these caste scrutiny committees for caste validity certificate, to get admission in professional courses or to employment in reserved posts in government or semi-government organisations. Although about 95 per cent are genuine, 5 per cent are bogus,” said an official who did not wish to be named. “Now, with an exponential increase in applications and no increase in committees, needy students and others will fall prey to agents and increase bogus cases which will deprive genuine students from getting admission,” said the official.

“The government has to approve 9 more caste scrutiny committees…It is true that more than a lakh people will apply for caste validity certificates and already the committees are overloaded. Hence the government should take immediate action to set up additional committees and make existing committees full time,”  said Rajendra Kondhare, national general secretary, Akhil Bharatiya Maratha Mahasangh.

‘Weak panels’

Increased load on caste scrutiny committees is feared to make them less efficient and deprive poor backward classes people of their rights. “Since Barti took charge of disbursing caste validity certificates, pending cases have come down to one lakh. But the committees are stressed since one chairman handles 4 to 5 districts under him and many a time, needy students do not get certificates on time and they pay full  fee. The problem of getting caste validity certificates forces many SC/ST students to take education loans. The government must take note of problems faced by caste scrutiny committees and set up more committees,” said Mahipal Waghmare of the RPI(A).

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