Haryana mulls 50% quota for women in panchayat polls

Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, who also holds the panchayats portfolio, confirmed Monday that they were discussing the issue with different sections of the society.

Five years after fixing mandatory educational qualification for sarpanches and other panchayat representatives, the Haryana government is now mulling to reserve 50 per cent seats in panchayat polls for women.

Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, who also holds the panchayats portfolio, confirmed Monday that they were discussing the issue with different sections of the society, and within the legislative groups of both the BJP and the JJP.

“The issue has been discussed in the meetings of BJP legislative group and Jannayak Janata Party (JJP). The government will take further steps once there is consensus among the people on this issue. (If taken)…this would be a very significant decision,” said Chautala.

Asked if he supports 50 per cent reservation for women in panchayat bodies, the JJP leader replied in affirmative.

“Earlier, we used to think that 50 per cent reservation for women in panchayat bodies would be in just 12-13 states, but when we examined the data, provision of this quota was found in 20 states out of total 28 states. After the introduction of the educational clause for the election of panchayat representatives in Haryana, the quality of work in panchayats has improved, especially where women are the village sarpanch,” he added.

Congress MLA and former state Education Minister Geeta Bhukkal has supported the idea of 50 per cent reservation for women in panchayats and local bodies. “To ensure women empowerment, the upliftment of women politically, socially and economically is a must,” added Bhukkal, a three-time legislator.

The president of Akhil Bhartiya Mahila Shakti Manch, Professor Santosh Dahiya said a resolution seeking 50 per cent reservation for women in panchayat polls has been passed in a women’s conference held online on Sunday.

According to Dahiya, women activists, politicians, officers and sportspersons participated in the conference.

“As per the decision of women who took part in the conference, now the demand of 50 per cent reservation for women will be sent to the Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and the Deputy Chief Minister,” she added.

According to Dahiya, several big states have already a made provision for 50 per cent reservation for women in the panchayat bodies.

“In the 2016 panchayat polls of Haryana, as many as 42 per cent women had won the poll battle, when 33 per cent seats were reserved for them. They can win as many as 70 per cent seats, if 50 per cent seats are reserved for them for the panchayat polls. In Parliament too, women should get 50 per cent reservation. Women have to enter politics to get their rights,” said Dahiya, a professor in physical education at Kurukshetra University.

In the state, the panchayats have tenure of five years, and the previous polls were held in January, 2016.

According to the minimum educational qualification for panchayat polls, from general category, only Class 10 pass male candidates are eligible to contest the polls.

Women from general category with Class 8 certificate are eligible to jump in the poll fray, while education till Class 5 is mandatory for females from the scheduled classes. For men from the scheduled caste community, minimum educational qualification to contest panchayat polls is Class 8.

Among 6,183 sarpanches elected in Haryana in 2016 polls, as many as 662 have studied till graduation or above. As many as 252 out of these graduate sarpanches are women.