Citizens’ Vigilance and Monitoring Committee Meeting
Online, 1100-1300, 20 June 2020
Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation (HRF) conducted its first Citizens’ Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (CVMC) meeting on 20th June 2020 via Zoom Video App. Post the training for Dalit and Adivasi Human Rights Defenders (DAHRDs) on how to monitor the implementation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 and Rules 1995 (POA) held at Ennore and Kothagiri, this meeting was to quickly recap the main objectives, followed by taking the monitoring process to the next level.
The meeting began with a formal introduction by the participants and the speakers. Chitra (Senior Coordinator, HRF) warmly welcomed all participants despite the serious Covid-19 pandemic situation and gave them an overview of the meeting.
The meeting was attended by 24 individuals from 23 organisations from 21 districts and 1 resource person.
Nandagopal (Consultant, HRF) talked about the ‘Importance of Monitoring the State Monitoring Mechanisms’. He detailed the present status of implementation of provisions of POA at the state and district levels. He dug deep into the monitoring mechanisms, including the duties, responsibilities, and the powers of the various officers under the Act. He also highlighted the SC/ST Protection Cell, Contingency Plan prepared by the State, etc.
Tamilarasi (Deputy Director, HRF) briefly explained how RTI could be used to monitor the implementation of the Act, and presented a draft format that could be sent by the district Citizens’ Vigilance and Monitoring Committees (CVMC). The format had some yellow-highlighted texts, where the address, contact details, etc. of each CVMC were to be added. She also explained the significance of the “To Address” at the bottom of the letter, and necessary check-lists before sending a RTI letter. It helps the sender to make sure no unfilled spaces are left in the letter. Finally she spoke about providing financial assistance for sending RTIs.
Questions and Answers
In one district, how many RTIs need to be filed monthly?
Initially, In every district, 4 RTIs need to be filed on a monthly basis, about one a week.
Has the District Citizens’ Vigilance and Monitoring Committee been formed?
In each district, the CVMC needs to be formed. It is preferable that the members be majority women, professionals, civil servants, judges, lawyers, bankers, and academics.
Is the RTI letter addressed to the District Collector or the Welfare Department?
The address changes based on the question we ask in the RTI. For instance, if we ask the details of NGOs encouraged and assisted financially by the government, then it is addressed to the Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department. Likewise, if we ask for the number of persons arrested under the POA Act, then it is addressed to the ADGP/Director, DGP Office.
In the present case, it is addressed to the district collector, since it is his responsibility to send that particular report (required by Rule 4(a) and Rule 4(b)) that we are asking for copies. The reference number has the rule under which that particular report is mandated from the government.
Apart from the questions given in your RTI letter, can we ask additional questions?
It is totally left to the participant’s discretion. If you want to ask more questions, you can go for it, but as separate requests. It is best not to mix up too many questions so that the chances of refusal or part fulfilment are limited.
If you are using the letterhead, please contact us first. We will help in framing the request.
What questions do we ask in the RTI letter?
As per provisions of the Act, the District Collector must submit a monthly report to the Principal Secretary, Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department about the status of the cases (including what has been done and what is proposed to be done) under the POA, quarterly and half yearly review reports, performance reports, and many more. The superintendent of police has to give some reports, as also the deputy superintendent of police, the judge of the special court, the Director of the Protection Cell, and the nodal officer (principal secretary, Adi Dravidar and Tribal welfare department)
We ask for all the reports coming under the provisions of the POA Act. In our annual citizen’s report, we will analyze the information and question the concerned authorities.
Some participants shared their views and experiences on this monitoring committee process and gave their positive feedback. The participants collectively decided to review the RTI filing process at the next CVMC meeting at 11am on Saturday, 27 June 2020. Finally, the meeting concluded with a ‘Jai Bhim’.