Centre to amend Protection of Civil Rights Act: Meira

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Hyderabad, Jan 28 (UNI) Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Meira Kumar today said the Protection of Civil Rights Act and SC and ST Prevention of Atrocities Act would be amended soon to provide stringent punishment against atrocities on SCs and STs and ensure an ''untouchability-free'' India by 2010.

Talking to newspersons after chairing the fourth meeting of the Committee constituted to devise ways and means to curb untouchability and atrocities against SCs/STs here, she lamented that registration of cases of atrocities by states was not upto the mark.

''Even if cases are registered, most of them end up in out of court settlements or acquittals. The Conviction rate is poor,'' she pointed out.

Noting that an atrocity case in Tsundur in Guntur district had ended in conviction and awarding of life sentence to eight convicts after a prolonged legal battle, she urged the states to ensure conviction of more cases. '' Only this would act as a deterrent against such crimes,'' the minister pointed out.

''Even if a single incident occurs in any remote area, it is a shame for the entire country,'' she said.

Four national awards, carrying Rs two lakh for individual activists and Rs five lakh for non-governmental organisations were instituted to recognise the good work done by social activists and voluntary organisations in fighting against the social menace, she said.

The Centre has extended the scope of post-matric scholarships to cover students studying in private educational institutions also and enhanced the Rajiv Gandhi fellowships from 20 to 40 to help students go abroad and pursue courses unavailable within the country, she said.

The Andhra Pradesh Government has identified 12 districts prone to atrocities, for setting up of special police stations, Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Minister P Subashchandra Bose said, adding, 800 of the 2,356 social welfare hostels functioning from private buildings would be provided buildings of their own in phases.

UNI SM VA SP HT1748

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