Debunking the claims of the SAD-BJP government of doing “the best ever” for the welfare of Dalits in the state, Punjab State Commission for Schedule Castes chairman Rajesh Bagga has accused the ruling alliance of demeaning the authority of the panel and not paying heed to the real issues of the community.
Taking to Hindustan Times, Bagga, who was an active member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) before he was appointed to the constitutional post in December 2011, lamented that despite his efforts, the commission remained a “toothless tiger”.
“This government deliberately weakened the only statutory body that ensures the rights of Dalits. Despite my repeated meetings with Badal saab, the commission was not made powerful as it used to be during previous Congress governments,” he said.
“This is also a statutory commission like the Right to Service Commission and the Information Commission. Whereas members of other commissions enjoy privileges such as government vehicles and residences, our members don’t even get a single penny. Even I did not get government residence in Chandigarh,” said Bagga.
“It is no less than an irony that Punjab, which has the highest ratio of Dalits in the country, has the weakest scheduled castes commission. Look at states like Himachal, Haryana and Rajasthan which have empowered their commissions to ensure the welfare of Dalits. Here, it is opposite,” he said.
“The government added seven members to the panel in November to adjust its loyalists. We operate from just one room. It’s not less than an insult. I have repeatedly raised this issue before state BJP chief Vijay Sampla, but to no avail,” said Bagga, who became the youngest chairman of the SC commission in Punjab at the age of 36.
“Whenever we summon officials after some atrocity happens with Dalits in the state they don’t pay proper heed knowing it well that we are not empowered enough. We summon the principal secretary, a departmental clerk appears before the commission,” he said.
‘GOVERNMENT IGNORES REAL ISSUES OF DALITS’
Bagga said Dalits want education, jobs and not subsidised flour and pulses, referring to the Punjab government’s atta and daal scheme.
“The Post Matric Scholarship Scheme was an issue till the commission started summoning the defaulter colleges. Even the issue of land disputes with prominent castes in Malwa was not taken care of despite the commission’s repeated reminders to the government in the past four years,” he said.