| New Delhi |
November 23, 2020 2:11:45 a.m.
The National Commission for Minorities (NCM), made up of seven members, has only one member. While five positions had been vacant since May, Vice President Manjit Singh Rai retired on October 25.
The NCM is mandated to have seven members, including a president and a vice-president, with one member each from the Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi and Jain communities.
“There has been some delay in filling vacancies due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the process is ongoing, ” said the Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. The ministry recommends the names to the Prime Minister’s office.
This is not the first time vacancies have not been filled at NCM – in 2017, all seven positions remained vacant for more than two months.
The NDA government has been criticized for failing to fill vacant positions on Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Backward Classes and Minorities committees. That same year, the Delhi High Court requested the Center’s response to a plea against the government’s “inaction” in authorizing appointments to the NCM.
“It is true that the Commission, even with all its members, is not always effective. But it is nonetheless representation for minorities and an important instrument of government in a democracy that empowers them, and when the NCM is vacant they feel left out. The NCM is responsible for ensuring that the Prime Minister’s 15-point program is implemented and that programs for minority communities actually work, ” said Wajahat Habibullah, president of the NCM in 2011-2014.
“In the past, the Commission has investigated issues of community conflicts and riots. I have visited such conflicting sites to investigate. The 2011 Bharatpur communal riots were investigated by the Commission. In 2012, a team was sent to Assam to investigate the clashes between Bodo-Muslims and their findings were submitted to the government. Yet now there is clear targeting of a particular minority in Uttar Pradesh, for example, but the Commission has not said a word about it so far, which is shocking, ” he said. said Habibullah.
“In 2004, the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment, chaired by Sumitra Mahajan, made specific recommendations to strengthen the NCM. One of the problems was the insufficient investigative powers of the NCM… But these recommendations were never implemented by the UPA government of the day. Regardless of which government is in power, reports tabled by the Minorities Committee in Parliament are never really picked up or debated, ” said former Vice President Hamid Ansari, who was also NCM chairman.
Article 13 of the MNC law requires that the annual report, “as well as the action brief taken on the recommendations it contains”, as well as the reasons for the non-acceptance of the recommendations, if any, be tabled in Parliament each year. Sources said these reports had not been tabled in parliament since 2010.
“Even when I took office in 2006, these reports were no longer filed. And I had to raise the issue with the Minister of Minorities and restart the practice. It is no accident that the government is reluctant to take a close look, ” said Ansari, who investigated the Nandigram incident in West Bengal during his tenure.
“The Commission is supposed to follow up on complaints it receives. Most of the complaints we receive are about service matters, where a person may feel they have been fired or fired for promotion because of their religion. We also receive complaints about property disputes, ” said B Anand, secretary of NCM.
Former NCM members said there has been a change in the type of members appointed to the body. While previous appointments have included former chief justices, civil servants, academics, etc., the most recent appointees were mostly “social activists” with ties to the Church. BJP, they said.
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