Former Maya aide and NCSC chairman P L Punia in an interview with Governance Now
Sonam Saigal | September 7, 2011
National commission for scheduled castes (NCSC) chairman P L Punia has always been finding himself on wrong side of the Mayawati government. There is history behind it. Punia served as a close confidante for the feisty UP chief minister as a bureaucrat. But the parting of her company was bitter. When Mayawati tried to put blame on him for the Taj corridor scandal, Punia known as an efficient and honest IAS officer hit back. After his retirement, he tried his luck in politics, and won the Barabanki Lok Sabha seat and emerged as Mayawati’s bête-noire in the country’s largest state. In an exclusive and free-wheeling interview to Sonam Saigal, he not only bared his heart but also exposed certain secrets of the UP chief minister, albeit with a sleight of hand.
Q: What is your view on the Wikileaks exposure about Mayawati since she called the exposure as anti-dalit?
A: Nobody knows Mayawati better than me. She will ditch her father when it comes to saving her own skin. I would believe that the facts contained in the Wikileaks emanated from within the Mayawati circle. If Satish Mishra says that Mayawati fancies personal corruption, there is a substantial truth in the statement. I do not know why she is upset about it. Her corruption is an open secret in the state. And her anti-dalit stance can be seen all over the state. As a chairman of the commission of the scheduled caste I have frequently encountered her anti-dalit conduct. Is this not a fact that she relished the exposure in Wikileaks when it pertained to other leaders? Why is she so perturbed about the recent leaks?
Q: This is quite strange that you talk about anti-dalit stance of Mayawati. Can you corroborate this statement?
A: The state government has been scuttling every move to conduct a review of the dalit situation in the state. We have made several attempts to take the state government on board and review the welfare schemes for dalits. Similarly, we have been mandated to hold a meeting about the security scenario where an assessment about crimes against dalits could be made. In all these issues, the government has been thwarting our attempts and doing everything to sabotage the review. More recently, I got complaints from the Lucknow medical college about discrimination against dalits being practiced there. But I was surprised to find that Mayawati not only closed the institute on the day of inspection but also posted PAC (provincial armed constabulary) and police to prevent my visit. It is a different matter that I went inside the medical college, held my meeting with students. Now I have summoned the vice-chancellor to explain his role in the issue.
Q: Are you not doing this because you are a congress leader who is keen on dislodging Mayawati? Then you have personal axe to grind?
A: This is an argument she puts forward when we make an allegation. But now what she will say when her own confidante like Satish Mishra talks about her corruption. There is no doubt that I am a congressman and I make political statements which I am entitled to do. But there are certain facts which are too glaring to be ignored. For instance, in UP, dalits constitute 21.2 percent population while their representation in the services is below 12.5 percent. This has been done over the years. But here is a chief minister who claims to work for the dalits and totally oblivious to their plight. In our survey, we found out that no appointments in the state government have been made at the lower category for the past four and half years. And if there are certain appointments made, they are believed to have fructified due to monetary consideration. In UP, there days appoints are done at a price. This is a strange situation. At the same time, the lower level vacancies are being filled through contractual jobs where employees belonging to scheduled castes are grossly underpaid. Since the mayawati government is colluding with contractors, we are nothing but helpless witness to the process of complete marginalisation of Dalits.
Q: But there are reports that crimes against dalits have substantially declined in the state?
A: The data however speak otherwise. As per record of the crime bureau, there are around 34,000 cases of atrocities against dalits all over the country. Uttar Pradesh accounts for around 7500 cases. This clearly shows that UP has the largest share of crime against dalits. At the same time there are attempts to cover up crimes against dalits. This can be borne out by the fact that over 1600 cases of dalit atrocities were registered all over the state due to the court’s intervention. This only shows the administration’s response to the issue. Then, there are specific instructions from the chief minister’s office not to register crimes against dalits. The state police was allowed to inculcate a sense of fear among dalits that they would be persecuted if their FIR proved to be wrong. In my own experience at several places, dalit women refused to register even rape cases. In my role as chairman of the commission, I have often found it difficult to persuade victims to go to the police. This is the reign of terror by Mayawati. To make the matter worse for me, she makes it sure that I am not given any facility or security to carry out a probe on such events.
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