Urgent message to all brothers and sisters
Bill on National
Commission for Minorities
By Zafarul-Islam Khan
Editor, The Milli Gazette
In response to long-standing demands to give the National Commission for Minorities constitutional status and arm it with adequate powers to discharge it duties, a bill has now been introduced in the Lok Sabha. This bill is at present under consideration of Parliament's Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment headed by Shrimati Samitra Mahajan.
The standing committee has issued an advertisement on 15 June in some newspapers asking for suggestions from experts, organisations and individuals. These suggestions are to reach the committee on or before 24 June 2005. According to our information, the concerned advertisement was supposed to be published on 15 May which would have given the public adequate time to respond but it was published a month later without extending the dates. As a result, the public has scarcely nine days to respond about such an important issue.
It is well-known that the NCM as it exists today is toothless. Its annual reports have not been tabled in Parliament for the last eight years. Government departments do not take its communications and orders seriously. Bureaucrats choose to ignore its summons. Unlike the National Commissions for Human Rights/Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes, the NCM lacks judicial and investigative powers. Its budget is so meagre, and staff so minuscule that it cannot undertake the tasks faced by it to safeguard the interests of the minorities in the country. The new bill too is in fact old wine in new bottles with cosmetic modifications. Nothing substantial has changed.
I would like to take this opportunity to request all concerned to immediately write to the Standing Committee with suggestions including the following demands through a memorandum in Hindi or English, in two copies:
1. The NCM must have judicial powers.
2. The NCM must enjoy investigative powers and have adequate personnel to investigate cases brought to its attention.
3. The NCM's budget must be made at par with NHRC.
4. The NCM's annual reports must be presented in Parliament in time and made public.
All respondents should also ask for opportunity to be heard personally as this will give more weightage to their views.
Memorandums are to be sent to: Mr RK Saxena, Deputy Secretary, Lok Sabha Secretariat, Room No. 160, Parliament House Annexe, New Delhi 110 001. Tel. 2303-4091, 2303-4866, 2303-4091;
Fax: 2301-6166, 2301-0756, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Only Muslims are lagging behind in their response. Other communities were ready with their proposals and have already submitted them through organisations and individuals. Muslims should immediately take note of this opportunity.
PS. Brothers and sisters outside India should send email to Mr RK Saxena
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