Nitish expedites pending cases as battle for Dalit votes intensifies
HAM is attempting to counter balance LJP’s influence on Dalit votes as crucial Bihar assembly elections draw close.Updated: Sep 05, 2020, 09:08 IST
As Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM) supremo Jitan Ram Manjhi crosses swords with the chief of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ally, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP)’s Chirag Paswan, to reposition himself as the real stalwart of Dalit politics in the state, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Friday asked departmental secretary to expedite investigations in pending cases of atrocities against SC and STs and have them disposed, within a fortnight, by September 20.
Presiding over a meeting of the state-level vigilance and monitoring committee, constituted as part of the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1995, Nitish Kumar asked for speeding up the investigation process for time-bound disposal of all pending cases latest by September 20, as the government prepares to go in for state general elections with a positive report card on its “development with justice” agenda.
The missive to SC, ST welfare department secretary Prem Kumar Meena comes at a time when battle lines are drawn between the opposition’s Grand Alliance and the NDA for a substantial slice of OBC vote bank, and, more particularly, for a larger pie of the Dalit vote bank, which accounts for 16% of total vote share, while LJP chief Chirag Paswan, an NDA ally, continues to take on the chief minister on law and order, migrants and Covid-19 fronts.
Former chief minister and HAM chief Jitan Ram Manjhi, who is still to become a part of the NDA but has struck an alliance with JD (U), has jumped in the fray in defense of the chief minister.
Manjhi has said that he would not only shield Kumar but also expose Chirag and senior Paswan (Ram Vilas) for doing precious little for the cause of Dalits. Paswans account for less than 6% of the Dalit votebank.
Notwithstanding Manjhi’s support, which many see as mere sabre rattling for getting honourably re-instated as the Dalit mascot in the NDA camp, JD (U) chief Nitish Kumar, who is on a spree to compensate the exit of Shyam Rajak and keep his “zero tolerance policy against caste, corruption and communalism (3Cs)” intact, has decided to send out a clear message that cases of atrocities under the SC, ST Act will not be condoned at any cost.
Kumar also asked the department to immediately frame rules for providing a government job to one family member in the event of murder of a person of SC, ST community and also expedite the process for the appointment of public prosecutors by the law department to ensure cases are defended well at trial level.
The amendment in the SC, SCT (prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1995, by the NDA government had led to a countrywide hue and cry, with LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan leading the protests. Dalits believed that the amendment had diluted the act.
Following the protests, some of the amended provisions relating to arrest and punishment were restored, making the upper castes restive, who in turn, were placated with EWS (economically weaker section) quota at a later stage.
Kumar also directed the department secretary Prem Kumar Meena to ensure that the benefits of welfare schemes for SC and STs reached them and to also explore new measures for mainstreaming them.