National Commission of Scheduled Caste

Article 338 of the Indian constitution deals with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC)

Functions of the Commission:

Following functions are performed by commission which have been laid down in clauses (5), (8) and (9) of the Article 338 of the Constitution:

  • To investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the Scheduled Castes under this Constitution or under any other law.
  • To inquire into specific complaints with respect to the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the Scheduled Castes.
  • To participate and advise on the planning process of socio-economic development of the Scheduled Castes.
  • To present to the President annually.
  • To discharge such other functions in relation to the protection, welfare and development and advancement of the Scheduled Castes as the President may, specify.

Power of NCSC:

While investigating matters to inquire into any complaint, the Commission has powers of a Civil Court trying a suit and in respect of the following matters:

  • summoning and enforcing attendance of any person from any part of India and examining them on oath.
  • requiring discovery and production documents.
  • receiving evidence on affidavits.
  • requisitioning any public record or copy from any court or office.
  • issuing summons/communications for the examination of witnesses and documents.
  • any other matter which the President may by rule determine.

According to Article 338(9), Union and every State Government shall consult the Commission on all major policy matters affecting Scheduled Castes.

Analysis of its Functioning:

The four core areas of the Commission’s functioning, viz., service safeguards, education, economic development and atrocities.

Services Safeguards Wing is the most active:

  • It looks into the Complaint related to promotions, discrimination and harassment on various counts, institution of disciplinary proceedings on flimsy grounds, the conduct of departmental enquires in an unfair manner.
  • It has also succeeded in institutionalizing the system of liaison officers and special SC and ST cells in all central ministries and public sector enterprises for the speedy and effective resolution of the grievances of employees of these communities

Literacy and educational development:

  • It has taken special interest in female literacy rates.
  • It marks the tendencies in enrolment at the primary level and dropout rates at successive tiers of the educational ladder.
  • It also monitors the working of book-bank facilities and various scholarship programs at all levels.

Educational and Economic Development:

  • Addressing the all-important questions of land reform, land records, and the streamlining of land revenue administration, the Commission recommended land ceiling and the redistribution of surplus land by various state governments.
  • It also suggested a range of tenancy reforms and several measures to prevent the alienation of tribal land

Atrocities Committed:

  • NCSC monitors the implementation of the various legal provisions in force regarding such occurrences.
  • It collects and comments on the statistics pertaining to cases under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989.
  • It pays special attention to the atrocities perpetrated by police personnel.
  • It also monitors the case disposal rates of these courts

Approach of the working of NCSC

  • The Commission interacts with the State/UT Governments more actively by holding State level review meetings with the Chief Secretaries and other senior officers and conducting field level visits.
  • The Commission, through its Headquarters and State Offices has also conducted field level inquiries and studies.
  • The Commission is of the view that it is only through proper planning and effective implementation of appropriate schemes for development that the Scheduled Tribes can hope to catch up with the rest of the population and realize their full potential. Therefore, the Annual Plans of the Central Ministries, States and UT Governments are being analysed in the Commission

Critical Examination:

  • It has been less than sensitive to the exclusions engendered by the lack of education or information, and has not used its powers of suo motu cognisance actively enough.
  • It’s working has been more tilted towards the services safeguards (Those who are in Government Service), thus accused of elite Biasness.
  • The lack of institutionalisation in the procedures of appointment to the Commission has meant that competent and committed members are less likely to be appointed.
  • The most significant handicap of the Commission is the fact that its decisions are not binding, but recommendatory.
  • There has historically prevailed a conflict between the Commission and its nodal ministry with respect to release of Fund and staff.
  • The quality of report in terms of the data they contain, and the manner in which the data is organized, has also been declining over the years. Comparisons are often made with the first ten reports prepared under late L.M. Shrikant and the decline in quality thereafter.
  • The delay in submitting and discussing reports has been remarked upon by members of parliament over the years.
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