‘Evolving Panchayati Raj: Sarpanchi in the new Haryana’

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In one incident, the husbands of some elected women representatives forced the Karnal district administration to attend the formal meetings of Zila Parishad. It is the home constituency of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.

Deepak Kaushik (kaushikraist@gmail.com)

PRI

Indians have experienced the Panchayati Raj system as early as in the ancient times under the Mauryan period. As Kautaliya writes in the ‘Arthasastra’ that the Village community elects the ‘headman’ who acts as the President of the village assembly and its executive as well. He was the leader for both kinds of matters, be it civil or criminal. Headman used to have extensive powers, even to punish someone by sending them out of the village.

In the modern times, Gandhiji in all his calls against the British Raj reached every nook and corner of the nation and said that participation of rural masses in the freedom struggle is the key to emancipation from colonial rule.

He filled the mind and heart of every villager with a great sense of belongingness and participation. In Independent India it was Rajasthan which implemented the Panchayati Raj on the 2nd October 1959 on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in the Nagaur district, inaugurated by Pt. Nehru then.

Till 1992 Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) could not find a place in the Constitution. In the year 1992, 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments were passed and then came into force on April 24, 1993.

PRI is the sole contribution of the Indian constitution to the world as it was India which first made the provisions of local self governance.

The Haryana Chief Ministers stressed the development of villages as seventy percent people reside in villages.

Ch. Bansilal did exemplary work as the state of Haryana was the first state to electrify all its villages in the nation under his leadership. He made a commitment to construct ‘Pucca’ roads to connect every village of the state. He was an astute administrator who brought the water to southern Haryana by the system of lift irrigation by constructing Jui water canal.
 
Ch. Devilal enjoyed a great rapport among rural crowds as he declared himself one amongst them and took up the challenge of supplying electricity to every agricultural field and also successfully implemented it too.

It was Devilal who started the concept of old age pension in Haryana.  

Devil’s legacy among ruralites is still popular as both the regional parties — Indian National Lok Dal and Jannayak Janta Party want to cash on the legacy of Devilal popularly known as ‘Tau’ among masses.

Former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda granted village panchayats large amounts of funds for developmental works and he wholeheartedly and liberally funded the Panchayats of Haryana. Hooda promoted the already existing sports culture by establishing small stadiums in the village panchayat land for the community.

But let’s discuss some of the reforms or the schemes by the state BJP government for the PRI  when Om Prakash Dhankar was Panchayati Raj Minister and now the same department is under deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala .

  1. Jagmag Gaon: The Aim of this scheme was to supply 24 hours electricity in the villages. The fellow citizens in villages are very notorious in surrounding the power houses and making the Power Department employees hostage who go on the inspection to check the power theft in the villages. Now, supply of electricity is indirectly proportional to the theft in the village. More the theft is less is the supply and vice-versa. Government boasts of announcing that about 4200 villages are being given electricity for more than eighteen to twenty hours.
  2. Khel Nurseries in collaboration with the Village Panchayat or the School: This program of government did not give desired results as there were allegations of corruption and the proxy rolls of the students to get the allowance or subsidy.
  3. Saksham Haryana: As per the report of the Pratham Foundation there is great mismatch between the syllabus and the knowledge of the students like a student of fifth standard is incapable of simple multiplication and division. So under Saksham Haryana this mismatch is being corrected taking block level as a unit and now we proudly say that above 85% of our Blocks are Saksham now.
  4. Star rating of villages: This was a pilot project where villages were to be given a rating on the basis of  seven parameters such as sex ratio, good education, hygiene or serenity, environment preservation, good governance and social participation. Villages were granted funds as per the achievement of stars in the evaluation. This scheme.

Reforms by the BJP Government:

HARYAN CM KHATTAR AND HIS DEPUTY DUSHYANT CHAUTALA

When the BJP government under Manohar Lal came to power it took up the challenge of institutionalising the concept of an educated sarpanch and members of the Panchayat. So minimum education and some basic conditions like no dues of electricity bills and a functional toilet at home of the contesting candidate were introduced.
The Haryana government effort was hit by legal hassle but it was a successful implementation in the form of Act in the year 2016 after a legal battle.

Fifty percent reservation for the Women:

Recently, the incumbent Panchayati Raj Minister Dushyant Chautala has been voicing that a bill to reserve 50% seats for the women candidates would be introduced in the state assembly. It is being done in the name of women empowerment. It is seen as a step in the right direction as the women power is excelling in sports, academics, Civil services, research so giving them a boost in electoral politics too would strike the right chord.

The only concern in bringing this welcoming change is the proxy power used by husband/brothers or father-in-law of the elected women sarpanch or members. As the existing 33% reserved seats where women are elected have not borne desired fruits of the Act. The culture of ‘Sarpanch Pati’- is getting boosted with impunity.

The press paper had reported the matter of ugly fights between ‘sarpanch pati’ and administrative officers over this matter.

In one incident, the husbands of some elected women representatives forced the Karnal district administration to attend the formal meetings of Zila Parishad. It is the home constituency of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.

The portrayal of ‘Sarpanch Pati’ was being shown on a OTT platform with the title- ‘Panchayat’ where the sad realities are shown as how power is being exercised by elected woman sarpanch by her husband.

Such provisions of fifty percent reservation to women are already there in Bihar but it has not been able to produce its core aim of empowering women.

However, youth like Sarpanch like Sunil Jaglan of Bibipur in Jind has light in darkness by introducing innovative ways like Selfie-with-daughter, digital panchayat, digital literacy for women which was also praised by Prime Minister Modi in Mann-ki-baat.

Right to Recall:

Right to Recall is an invention of Scandavian nations like Sweden, Norway & Finland where it is in practise. In the Right to Recall the electorate has the power to reject an elected representative before the completion of the tenure, if his work or performance is not found satisfactory. When Anna Hazare movement against corruption shook the then UPA government and Lokpal Act was passed then the demand of Right to recall was also made but that could not mature.

Recently, Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala announced that the government is contemplating the concept of Right to Recall in Haryana Panchayati Raj Institution. But time would tell if it is possible in the existing system of governance or not.

It may again be a right step in making Sarpanch more accountable, sincere and rise above petty politics or launching vendetta and vitiate atmosphere in the village. Panchayats have a tenure of five years and once a person is elected  enjoys unlimited authority & power without impunity for the wrongdoings.

Right To Recall comes with its limitations too as the blame game would get promoted and it may also prove a roadblock in the development projects. Elections are always an expensive affair in India so the burden on the exchequer and the contesting candidates would be unbearable.

Former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in a press conference at Rohtak had said that  Right To Recall Act should first be implemented for Members of Parliament and Legislators first then to experiment it in PRIs.
“It should not be implemented at the grassroots level before MPs, MLAs show seriousness about the Act and become accountable”, Hooda had said.

Sarpanch of village Chhetera in Sonipat Rajrani, who is also the convenor of the Sarpanch Ekta of eleven villages says “It is a good move by the government if not misused by the opponents and implemented well and efficiently for the good cause”.
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