Rajasthan ranks second in terms of the number of crimes against Scheduled Castes in the country, records the maximum number of rapes in the country after Madhya Pradesh and stands fifth in terms of incidents of crimes against children, latest official data shows. Yet, the three key panels in the state in charge of looking after the rights of these groups have been functioning without a chairperson for over a year.
While the State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights has been headless since November 2013, the Women’s Commission and Commission for Scheduled Castes have not had a chairperson since last year.
The appointments to these commissions are usually political, and a change of government usually means a change in composition of the panels concerned.
According to former chairpersons, this is the longest the commissions have functioned without anyone at the helm.
Commission for Women
Statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau paint a dismal picture of women’s safety in the state. Rajasthan ranks third in terms of rate of crimes (84 per cent) against women in the country. It recorded 3,285 incidents of rapes (second in the country), 15,094 incidents of domestic abuse (second) and 4,047 incidents of kidnapping and abductions (fourth).
“Forget the chairperson, there is not even a single board member on the women’s commission now. There have been no hearings since February,” Laad Kumari Jain, the last serving chairperson of the Rajasthan Women’s Commission, told The Indian Express. “The role of the commission is very important. In many cases, we did not even wait for the police but acted suo motu on the basis of media reports. We were most effective in domestic abuse cases, where arbitration can resolve most issues. We even summoned a former cabinet minister in such a case involving his wife,” Jain said.
Commission for Scheduled Castes
The Rajasthan Commission for Scheduled Castes, set up by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje during her previous term, has had no one at the helm since last year.
The state is a hotbed of caste conflicts and ranks third in crimes against Dalits (6,475 counts), after Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and has recently seen a spate of violent crimes against persons from the SC community.
The alleged inaction by authorities during the recent Dangawas caste violence, which left at least six people dead, was one instance where the need for an independent body was felt. The police and administrative apparatus in the district acted only after the visit of P L Poonia, chairperson of the National Commission of Scheduled Castes.
Commission for Child Rights
The State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, responsible for monitoring “laws, policies, programmes, and administrative mechanisms” to ensure protection of child rights as enshrined in the Constitution, as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, has been without a chairperson since last year.
“The SCPCR is so crucial in terms of monitoring flagship child rights acts like the Right to Education and Protection Of Children against Sexual Offences. Its neglect shows how much the government cares for children,” a former SCPCR member said.
Rajasthan recorded 2,888 incidents of crimes against children — the fifth highest in the country — according to the latest NCRB Crime in India report.
In February this year, the Rajasthan High Court directed the state government to appoint an SCPCR chairperson in a month. Also in February, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to appoint a full-time chairperson for the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights. Yet, action on the part of the government is awaited.
The state government said it was serious about the matter and the process to appoint chairpersons was under way. “I can’t give a precise time frame but the government has begun the process of the finalising the chairpersons. The appointments will be made soon,” Rajasthan Chief Secretary C S Rajan told The Indian Express.