Centre mulling revising reservation cycle for women in Panchayat

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New Delhi, Jul 4 (UNI) Facing opposition and non-cooperation from male villagers and local administrative staff, Ashubi and her team of women panchayat members had no option but to resign en mass, which forced the government to take note of their plight and come to their rescue.

Men of the Muslim dominated Neemkhana boycotted the panchayat elections to protest against it being declared reserved for women resulting in an all women team being elected. Taking their protest further, the men decided not to cooperate with the women panchayat functionaries who being inexperience faced a lot of problem in fulfilling the basic needs of villagers like water, power and roads.

''When the local administration staff did not cooperate with us, we decided to resign in mass,'' Ms Ashubi told mediapersons narrating her tale of woes at the Indian Women Press Corps here.

But this brought attention of the media and the government to their problems and Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar reported the matter to UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and on her intervention central government officials were sent to the spot to sort out the problem of the villagers and panchayat members.

the Minister informed the press.

Sharing the findings of the study on 'Role of Elected Women Representatives in the Panchayati Raj Institutions' conducted by A C Nielsen ORG MARG Pvt Ltd which was sponsored by his ministry, Mr Aiyar said over a million woman in rural areas have come out of their houses and participated in the political and administrative process in the country through reservation in the Panchayati Raj Insitutions under the Constitution. With every panchayat member being elected at least four to five have been defeated which indicate that at least five million women have come out of their house and become politically empowered.

He said the study has revealed that contrary to the general perception, the reservation has resulted in a large number of women from the Scheduled Caste/ Tribes and Other Backward Classes getting into panchayats and bringing change at the grassroot level.

Regarding the problems being faced by elected women panchayat members in getting re-elected due to rotation of seats, the minister said the Centre is considering increasing the duration of the reservation cycle. This would give women, without any previous experience of administration, more time to work for the upliftment of their villages and also would discourage men acting as 'Sarpanchpati' working on behalf of their wives, he said.

Sharing the success story of women making a change in remote rural areas, Savita Rathi of Churu in Rajasthan said though majority of villagers in her panchyat were from the Scheduled castes and OBC the village has made tremendous stides in achieving basic necessity.

She said a Masterplan for the village was made and under it the targets for road construction, education for all has been achieved through bridge courses for the drop outs, school buildings and roads have been constructed.

Regarding the performance of women in panchayats, it has been found to be independent of their caste, religion but depended on the devolution of power to the Panchayati Raj Institutions in various states. The participation of women in Panchayats have been found to be maximum in Bihar, Sikkim, Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand, but their performance varied in various states. Their performance in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh has been found be low while in Karnataka has been among better performers.

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