Minister for social justice and empowerment Mukul Wasnik has shot off a letter to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati, listing the state’s institutional failures in preventing atrocities against the Dalits.
With less than a year to go for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, the letter may mark the beginning of a political confrontation between the BSP and Congress over the Dalit vote in UP, which is 21 % of the state’s population.
This vote — which was once part of the Congress’ rainbow coalition of upper castes, Dalits and Muslims in the state — has over the last two decades been gradually captured by Mayawati’s BSP.
Wasnik’s letter says that the state has not yet identified atrocity-prone areas, which Section 21 (VII) of the Prevention of Atrocities (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) Act, 1989, requires it to do.
A ministry official said the state had last identified these areas in 1986, three years before the Act itself came into existence. In other words, UP has not identified these areas since the Act came into force, though it has declared 20 districts as “sensitive”.
Wasnik has also pointed out to the absence of a state-level vigilance-and-monitoring committee in the state, as required by Rules 16 and 17 of the PoA Rules, 1995. This committee, under the chairpersonship of the chief minister, is required to meet twice a year. In UP, however, it is non-existent.
The letter comes after a meeting of officials of the central ministry with its UP state counterpart in April, where Wasnik is believed to have flagged these concerns vis-à-vis the implementation of the PoA Act in the state.
Of the 33426 cases of atrocities against Dalits registered across India in 2009, UP accounts for 22.3 % (or 7461). However, UP officials are believed to have said that the high number of cases registered was primarily because of the huge population of the state.
The state officials also pointed out that the state has a higher conviction level than the national average. The all-India average conviction rate in such cases between 2007-09 was a mere 31 %, while it was 54 % in UP.