While Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote the epitaph of the Planning Commission in his Independence Day speech, there has been a perceptible slowdown in the activities of another body — the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) — in the past four months. Incidentally, while all other commission heads were given feelers to step down immediately after the government came to power, NCM was left untouched.
The commission has had just two hearings in the four months since the Modi government came to power.
In 2013-14 it had 24 hearings, about two per month. Despite the country and Parliament reacting sharply to rising incidents of communal violence lately, the commission’s interventions have been few and far between.
It made one follow-up visit to Muzaffarnagar in late June to find out what happened to its recommendations in the aftermath of the riots in September last year.
Earlier this month, it met Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to talk about media reports on rising communal violence in the state.
The matter of NCM recommendations on last year’s riots in Muzaffarnagar was also taken up.
A two-member team of the commission had visited Saharanpur in July. The report was given to Akhilesh during the meeting.
The commission took suo motu cognisance of one incident — the death of a Pune techie on June 2. Almost three months later, a team is currently visiting Maharashtra and has appealed to the chief minister to ban Hindu Rashtra Sena, the right-wing group allegedly responsible for the incident.
“There have been quite a few hearings, I do not remember off hand how many, but they are not the only yardstick of the commission’s activities. Routine activities are happening as are visits. Files are being cleared regularly,” NCM chairman Naseem Ahmed said.
Asked how many incidents the commission had taken suo motu cognisance of, secretary Surjit Chaudhary said, “We did it in the Pune case. All tour reports of members are available on our website.”
Apart from the visit to Lucknow to meet Akhilesh and the follow-up visit to Muzaffarnagar, the commission has undertaken three other visits in the past four months.
One visit was to Araria in Bihar on May 28 to settle a matter between villagers of Bhajanpura and a company called Auro Sundaram. Another was to Faridabad to look into the issue of illegal encroachment of a graveyard in village Rajpur Phulera. One NCM team is currently in Maharashtra.
Among the members, the only one who has undertaken a visit since the new government assumed office is Farida Abdullah Khan, who visited Jammu and Kashmir — a state which does not come under the purview of the commission — between May 26 and June 8. The visit had been cleared during the UPA tenure.
There have been nine meetings of the commission in the past four months. Apart from the tour reports, discussions have centred around the annual report of the commission — on June 3, one member wanted more photographs in the report — condolence messages, work allocation among members and the commission’s new office in CGO complex.