With people from Dalit communities in 32 villages of Gujarat’s 20 districts living under police protection, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has suggested launching a campaign to promote “samajik samarasta (social harmony)” in these villages so that the police protection can be lifted.
The issue was on Wednesday discussed in a meeting of the state-level vigilance and monitoring committee that looks after effective implementation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, or the Atrocity Act.
The meeting, slated to be held twice a year under the provisions of the Atrocity Act, was attended by Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Ishvar Parmar, Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani, Chief Secretary J N Singh, Principal Secretary (Social Justice and Empowerment Department) Manoj Aggarwal, and state DGP Shivanand Jha, among others.
Dhanani told The Indian Express: “In 12 cases (out of 32 villages) the protection is given to individual Dalit families. In 20 (other) cases, entire Dalit mohallas have been provided protection.”
In October last year, when the committee’s meeting was held last, there were 30 such villages where Dalits were living under police protection, he said. Since then, he said, police protection was withdrawn from four villages as the situation was seen as having improved.
“But six more villages have been added to the list,” the Congress leader added.
According to Dhanani, Chief Minister Rupani has instructed the officials concerned – such as the district collector, district superintendent of police and local leaders – to take initiatives on campaign mode in an effort to improve the situation of social harmony in these villages, so that people from these communities can live without police protection.
Dhanani said that since October 2018 more than 933 cases of atrocities against people from Dalit and tribal communities have been reported. At the same time, he added, the conviction rate in cases of Atrocity Act is less than three per cent.
Sources said that Rupani has asked Home and Law departments to work out a plan to improve the conviction rate.
“I pointed out that the state government should take initiatives to ensure that the conviction rate in these cases improve. I also suggested that steps should be taken to ensure disposal of over 10,000 pending Atrocity Act cases in Gujarat,” the Opposition leader said.
In a release issued after the meeting, the state government stated that in the last one year, the government has paid compensation of Rs 16 crore to Dalit victims of atrocities. In the same period, the government stated, victims from ST communities have been paid Rs 2.84 crore compensation.