At human rights commission, itís a sad state of affairs

No chairperson, no registrar, no members. Over 8,000 cases pending

"We are hoping to have a Commission chairperson soon. Please do file your complaint with us. Notices will be issued as soon as the office starts its work," clerk Ranjappa Nandedkar informs each complainant who walks into his pigeon-hole cubicle at the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) office in south Mumbai. Nandedkar's is the only office that has been "operational" at the commission for the last 10 months.

With every officer-rank post ó chairperson, the registrar and two members ó lying vacant, and as many as 8,271 cases piled up before the commission, Nandedkar says, "Only wish people did not file any more complaints."

Even on the occasion of World Human Rights Day on Monday, the date chosen to honor the United Nations General Assembly's adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Commission in Mumbai wore a desolate look.

Many complainants, mostly from mofussil regions of the state, go to the commission only to return in despair. Some even get into fights with the clerical staff.

"It takes a great deal to arrange for a vehicle and reach Mumbai. Local police have been refusing to take down my complaint. A neighbour had burnt by cattle shed last month. I came here hoping to have my complaint heard. They (clerical staff) say the commission is defunct at present and will get back to me," said Tirath Bhatge, who travelled overnight from Akola.

Since the SHRC has only one office, a complainant is left with little choice but to travel great distances at times. While another option, that of sending the complaint through post, is available, people desperate for justice prefer to lodge their complaints in person.

"We tell people to post their complaints. But they do not trust us when we say we do not have any members to help them at present," said another clerk.

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