Government on Friday expressed "serious concern" over atrocities against Scheduled Castes with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stressing the need for implementing in letter and spirit existing laws for their protection.
Delivering his inaugural address at the Conference of State Ministers of Welfare and Justice, Singh said it was imperative that the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 and the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 are implemented.
"Although successive governments have made progressive laws, which protect the basic rights and dignity of those who are disadvantaged in one way or the another, the real question is how to implement and enforce these laws effectively," the Prime Minister said.
Dr. Singh said he had written to Chief Ministers on this subject and hoped that the state welfare ministers would "solemnly implement" in letter and spirit the two Acts.
Noting that "persons belonging to Scheduled Castes constitute the most vulnerable segment of the society," Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Mukul Wasnik said offences of atrocities against them continue to be a "matter of serious concern."
He said there is a "substantial gap" between the statutory requirements and the compliance of these laws in the states and the machinery for effective implementation of the two Acts in the states should be geared up.
The Prime Minister also said the government was considering expanding its pilot scheme "Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana" for integrated development of villages which have a large Scheduled Caste presence.
The Centre has launched the scheme on a pilot basis in five states of Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu for integrated development of 1000 villages.
"Ensuring equitable development of all sections of society and especially the weaker sections is central to the government's agenda of inclusive growth," the Prime Minister noted.
Describing the Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan as a "strategic measure" to address the development gap between the SCs and the general population, Singh said state governments must prepare and implement the SCSP with all sincerity so that benefits actually goes to those for whom they are intended.
"I know the states are trying to earmark funds under SCSP in proportion to their SC population. But how effective is the effort to concert outlays into outcomes? It clearly needs to be much more concerted and evident," he said.
Terming manual scavenging as one of the "darkest blots" and a "heinous" practice, the Prime Minister appealed to the people to take a pledge that this "scourge" would be eliminated in the next six months from every nook and corner of the country.
Referring to a recent advisory of Home Ministry which makes employing any SC or ST person as a manual scavenger punishable under section 3 of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, he urged state governments to make full use of the provisions of this "strong and prohibitive" instrument.
On disability, Dr. Singh said that the government proposes to bring a new law to replace the existing "Persons with Disability Act, 1955".
"After consulting state governments and other stake holders, we propose to introduce the bill in Parliament,"