While addressing the House on the issue during the Question Hour of the ongoing Budget Session here today, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani maintained that his government has taken adequate steps as recommended in the report on untouchability that was prepared by Cept University five years back.
During the question-answer session, Congress lawmaker Pravin Maru sought to know whether the government has received the Cept University's report on untouchability and what steps it has taken on the findings of the report.
In his reply, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Ishwar Parmar said that Cept University was asked to carry out a "fact finding" study on the practice of untouchability after Navsarjan Trust submitted its "one-sided" report on the issue in 2010.
Notably, the Union Home Ministry recently cancelled the FCRA licence of Navsarjan Trust, an NGO that works for the rights of Dalits in the state.
"Navsarjan submitted a one-sided and anti-government report in 2010. While going through that report, we realised that it was prepared just to malign Gujarat's image. Hence, the government asked Cept University to carry out a fact finding survey in 2010. We received the report in April 2013," Mr Parmar told the House.
Without divulging any details about the observations and suggestions made in the report, the minister added his department has already informed the "concerned departments and offices to take required steps as recommended in the study report".
He also added that it is not necessary to table the report in the Legislative Assembly.
Unhappy with his reply, senior Congress lawmaker Shailesh Parmar asked the government to share the findings of the report as well as the steps taken by it. He alleged that untouchability is still prevalent in the state and Dalits are still becoming victims of social boycott.
To pacify the opposition benches, Mr Rupani said his government is committed to eradicate this practice. He assured that untouchability in any form will not be tolerated and perpetrators will be dealt in the strictest manner.
"The report has given many recommendations. One is that the government should formulate schemes without keeping in mind the caste factor. To create harmony among all, the report also suggested that children of all castes and faiths, such as Dalits, Hindus and Muslims, should take meals together," Mr Rupani said.
When the Congress legislators insisted that the government should table the report, Mr Rupani said it is not necessary that the state should present each and every report in the House.
"This report was prepared by an institute, not by a notified Commission. Government conducts many inquiries, but, it is not necessary to table each and every report on the floor of the House," the chief minister said.