New Delhi: The Centre on Tuesday expressed deep concern over the "dismal" rate of conviction in cases related to atrocities on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and favoured joint action with states to ensure justice to the victims.

Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik said the conviction rate on cases of atrocities on SCs and STs in India was between 3 to 8 per cent while pendency of such cases in court was -- 80 to 90 percent.

"The conviction rate is dismal and pendency is very high. If this is the scenario, we all -- both Central and state governments -- have to ponder upon it and take strong corrective steps to provide justice to the SC and ST victims of atrocities," he said.

He was addressing a conference of Home Ministers and Ministers of Social Justice of all states and Union Territories which was attended by Chief Minister of Rajasthan Ashok Gehlot, Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil besides others.

Wasnik said the conviction rate in cases of atrocities against SCs and STs is 3.3 percent in Karnataka, 6.4 percent in Gujarat and 6.6 percent in Maharashtra while pendency rate is 90 percent in Gujarat, 88 percent in West Bengal, 87 percent in Maharashtra and 82 percent in Bihar.

"We have to take joint action to prevent such crimes. We have to see how to seize arms from those who indulge in such violence and how to give arms to Dalits for self defence and extern people who involved in the crime," he said.

In his inaugural address, Home Minister P Chidambaram said SC/ST population in the country was 25 percent yet "we are in a state of denial".

The Home Minister said though untouchability has gone on the face, it continues to hunt the society in different forms and its definition has changed from time to time. Chidambaram said Dalits were denied entry into temples 40 years ago and now they were denied access to police station and many of them were denied bank credits.

"That is another form of untouchability. The basic problem is that we continue to regard them as children of lessor god. It is a stain and shame," he said.

Chidambaram said the Home Ministry keeps issuing advisories to sensitise state governments against atrocities on SCs and STs and keep holding review meetings with the states.

"Laws and advisories are not enough to tackle the issue of untouchability. We have to do more to raise the economic and social status of the SC/ST population," he said.

Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo said incidents of atrocities on SCs and STs keep happening due to lack of proper opportunity for education and sources for livelihood. "We have to make the SC/ST population part of the development process," he said.

Deo said there were no dearth funds for the welfare of SC/ST but problem was its actual implementation. He asked the state government to ensure that the SC/ST welfare programmes reach the actual needy.

The Annual Report of the Home Ministry for 2011-12 released recently said Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest 6,272 cases of crime against SCs out of a total of 32,712 -- 19.2 percent of the total incidents in the country in 2010.

A total of 5,885 cases against STs were reported in the country during 2010 as compared to 5,425 cases in 2009 showing an increase of 8.5 percent in 2010 over 2009.

(Agencies)