New Delhi: Against the backdrop of the shocking Delhi gangrape, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said states should sensitise police forces to show special care in tackling crime against women.
Calling for collective efforts to change societal values with respect to women, Singh asked the governors of states and Union territories to guide their governments in this direction.
Addressing a Governors` Conference here, the Prime Minister stressed on the need to sensitise the police forces towards showing special care in dealing with crimes against the weaker sections of the society, including women, SC/STs, minorities and children.
"There is also a need to induct more women in our police forces. I urge the governors to guide their state governments in this direction," Singh said.
Noting that the horrific incident of gangrape here on December 16 had shaken the collective conscience of the country, he said the government has been prompt in acting on the recommendations of the Justice J S Verma Committee by promulgating an ordinance to strengthen laws to deal with crimes of sexual assault of an extreme nature against women.
The 23-year-old victim had died in a Singapore hospital on December 29.
Singh also urged the governors to pay particular attention to the effective implementation of the provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) and the Forest Rights Act.
He said the governors have a direct and critical role in ensuring speedy development of Scheduled Areas.
"These constitutional arrangements have played a very significant role in addressing the long standing demands and aspirations of our tribal brothers and sisters, especially those belonging to the North East," Singh said.
Singh said in tribal areas, the process of regular elections, coupled with greater devolution of funds and functions, has strengthened the Tribal Councils.
In the Fifth Schedule areas, the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) has ensured a greater say for the population in both local governance and control over community resources, he said.
"However, we still have a long way to go in terms of strengthening democratic processes and ensuring devolution of funds, functions and functionaries to the institutions of local self governance in the Scheduled areas," Singh said.
The Prime Minister said the Centre has been implementing the National Rural Drinking Water Programme and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission to assist states in enabling the availability of safe drinking water in rural and urban areas of the country.
"Reports indicate that approximately 74 per cent of our rural habitations have been provided with access to adequate safe drinking water," he said.
Singh said he was happy to note that the Bharat Nirman target of providing adequate and safe drinking water to identified and hitherto uncovered habitations has been achieved.
"However, we still need to address the issue of contamination of drinking water sources which affects many rural habitations. We also need to ensure that Gram Panchayats and local communities are fully involved in the planning, implementation and operation and maintenance of rural water supply systems," he said.
The Prime Minister said the government was giving much more attention to the area of sanitation than before.
"In order to accelerate the progress of sanitation in rural areas, a paradigm shift has been made in the Total Sanitation Campaign which is now called the `Nirmal Bharat Abhiyaan` in the 12th Plan," he said.
Singh said the government has set a goal to achieve 100 per cent access to sanitation for all rural households by 2022.
On manual scavenging, the Prime Minister said a new bill for the elimination of practice and the rehabilitation of manual scavengers has been introduced in Parliament.
"The new bill seeks to put an end to the dehumanising practice of manual scavenging. I am hopeful that Parliament will soon enact the proposed legislation," he said.