New demand for SC/STs, to kick off new controversy

NEW DELHI, DEC 6: A new controversy is likely to be kicked off soon, with the Parliamentary Forum for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes demanding reservation in admissions and jobs in institutions thriving on Government aid. The forum consists of over 160 MPs from all parties.

The demand was made in a resolution passed at a meeting of the forum chaired by BJP Rajya Sabha member Sanghpriya Gautam last night. They will submit a memorandum to Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee in this regard next week.

``A number of educational institutions as well as private banks and other establishments thrive on Government land bought on subsidised rates. They also take a number of other concessions from the Government. Why shouldn't they be forced to implement the quota for SC and STs, applicable so far (only) in Government bodies,'' asked Gautam.

The forum was set up in 1962 to monitor implementation of Government policies for the welfare of SC/STs, said treasurer Ashok Pradhan, adding that the other bodies like the SC/ST Commission and Joint Parliamentary Committee, set up for the welfare of SC/STs in 1970, are toothless, merely meant to investigate and report atrocities on Dalits. Sometimes, even their reports are not placed in Parliament.

The forum also demanded a Constitutional amendment to make SC/ST quota unchallengeable in court, a special recruitment drive by the Government to clear backlog in vacancies for SC/STs, a special cell for SC/STs headed by the Prime Minister, proper utilisation of the SC/ST welfare fund allocated to states in the special component plan by the Planning Commission and revival of B.R. Ambedkar Foundation lying defunct for past some years.

In 1935, Ambedkar had favoured reservation for SC/STs since they were economically not at par with other castes and had almost no representation in politics, Gautam said, adding that the situation had not changed much even after 53 years of independence.

He said that the forum is constituted soon after every Lok Sabha election and lasts till the Upper House's tenure. Gautam, who was unanimously elected chairman of the forum in its first meeting during Parliament's monsoon session, announced his executive yesterday.

It consists of veterans like P.A. Sangma, H. Hanumanthappa, Buta Singh, R.S. Gavai, Bali Ram Kashyap and Sushil Kumar Shinde, all of whom have been appointed co-conveners.

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