‘NCSC, How Long Till SCs/Dalits Get an Online Grievance Portal’
No online complaint portal exists in National Commission for Scheduled Castes to escalate caste-based atrocities.
On 18 July 2020, when many states in the country were still under lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, Yericharla Kiran Kumar along with his friend Shiny Abraham were stopped at a police checkpoint, enroute Chirala from Kothapeta, in Andhra Pradesh.
Kumar’s family alleges that he was beaten up by the police for not wearing a mask, while some other reports suggest the duo were taken into custody after an argument broke out with the police. The police maintain that Kiran jumped out of the jeep while being taken to the police station, resulting in a head injury. Two days later, Kiran Kumar, who is a Dalit, lost his life at a hospital where he was being treated for the head injury.
Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy had at the time ordered an inquiry into the incident and announced Rs 10 lakh ex gratia for the family. A case of custodial death was registered, as per this report.
Kiran and I grew up in the same locality and I personally know the emotional trauma his family went through. Having witnessed their agony, I wanted to report this incident to National Commission for Scheduled Caste (NCSC) and hopefully get justice. We were quite surprised to know that while the NCSC has been setup constitutionally for addressing the problems faced by SCs/Dalits, it has no online complaint portal.
We sent an email on 29 July 2020 to email@example.com, the email ID provided by the NCSC to register complaints. We sent a second email on 11 August to know the status of the complaint, but unfortunately there was no acknowledgement regarding it and we weren’t assigned any complaint ID either.
To raise awareness about this, we started a change.org petition addressed to Thaawar Chand Gehlot, the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, to set up an online complaint portal.
The petition received immense support and as a result, the NCSC changed its complaint registration in January 2021 from gmail.com to gov.in, ie, firstname.lastname@example.org to email@example.com.
How a Grievance Redressal Portal Can Help
Although we have a trustworthy email, the NCSC has certain limitations in receiving and processing complaints. For example, in the absence of an online complaint portal, the status of the complaint is kept hidden from the complainant.
Secondly, assigning a grievance ID at the first instance via email is not possible, and even if NCSC acknowledges the receipt of the complaint and is able to provide a grievance ID, tracking its status through mail is cumbersome.
The complainants are/will be unaware of the measures NCSC is taking towards addressing their complaints.
“There is no possibility of withdrawing any complaint or making changes or providing additional information if such is the case. The existing system completely fails in case NCSC wants more information regarding the filed complaint.”
In this situation, complainants may not be able to trust that they can get justice. This, I feel, restricts access to justice that is ultimately denied to victims of caste-based atrocities.
On 8 January, we visited the NCSC State Office in Hyderabad and met Director Dr G Sunil Kumar Babu who told us a suo moto case has been filed against the events of July 2020. However, due to lack of an online complaint portal, the status, further update, and progress of the case/complaint is not known.
A credible, transparent and an active digital complaint online portal must be set up by NCSC, as it exists for National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) most recently (ncstgrams.gov.in).
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