HC raps Maha’s government over low payment of panel members overseeing publication of Ambedkar’s writings

The Bombay High Court on Thursday expressed its displeasure with the Maharashtra government over the low remuneration paid to members of a committee set up to oversee the publication of the writings and speeches of jurist-social reformer Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar.

A divisional bench comprising Justices Prasanna Varale and Kishore Sant noted that the government’s decision to pay 10,000 rupees per month to non-government members of the committee was not a “welcome step”.

The bench was hearing a suo motu (alone) petition resumed in December 2021 after news outlets said the Maharashtra government halted its plan to publish Ambedkar’s literature.

In earlier hearings, the court was told that a 26-member committee, including experts, was in place to oversee the publication of writings and speeches by social reformers, including Ambedkar.

The court had, at the last hearing in July, asked the government what remuneration was paid to committee members who are experts in their field.

On Thursday, the bench was told by government litigator Purnima Kantharia that non-government members were being paid Rs 10,000 per month. There are 10 such members in the panel.

To this, the court, specifies that the amount amounts to approximately Rs 300 per day.

”What is that? How can the State pay such a low amount to the experts? Pay them at least according to their knowledge and status. This is not a welcome step at all,” Judge Varale said.

The tribunal also took note that the travel allowance paid to members who come from outside Mumbai for committee related work is only Rs 250 and in accordance with a policy drawn up in 1971.

Judge Varale noted that the price index has risen since 1971 and asking members to accept these allowances was certainly not a welcome step.

The court also arrested the government for failing to pay Rs 6.50 lakh each to Yashwant Chavare and Pradeep Naik, who have in their possession ”Malhaar Satyagraha (Ambedkar-initiated movement against untouchability) and Prabuddha Bharat (compilation of his speeches and writings)”.

The bench was told by attorney Swaraj Jadhav, appointed by the court to assist them, that the duo were willing to hand over the original material to the state in 2013 and that the government also agreed to pay them 6.50 lakh each. . However, due to technical problems, the government refused to pay the fees and did not even accept the said documents.

Judge Varale said the government must take into account that these two men are elderly and that the material with them is over 50 years old now.

”Someone gives you (government) material but you make it wait 6 years? Shouldn’t the state pay them at least something,” he asked.

The bench directed the state government to ensure that proper and sufficient funds are made available to the committee in addition to support staff to carry out its work.

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Jacob L. Thornton