The Punjab government has decided to ban Sarpanch proxies in any meeting of Panchayati raj institutions to empower women instead of paying lip service.
What’s the issue?
Most of the women's sarpanches do not attend meetings.
Instead, the male family members of several women's sarpanches were attending official meetings on their behalf.Some male members even sign documents on their behalf.
How does it impact the system?
‘Panchayat’, being “Local government”, is a state subject and part of the State list of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India.
Through the 73rdconstitutional amendment, one-third of seats in Panchayats were reserved for women. Several states raised the quantum of reserved seats to fifty percent.
This was aimed at empowering women and ensuring their participation in the political process and decision-making at the grass root level.
Punjab has also made provisions of 50% reservation for women in Panchayati Raj Institutions in their respective State Panchayati Raj Acts.
Clause (3) of Article 243D of the Constitution ensures the participation of women in Panchayati Raj Institutions by mandating not less than one-third reservation for women out of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election and the number of offices of chairpersons of Panchayats.
Proxy sarpanchesdiminish women’s authority and block the election of women keen on bringing about a change in society through a career in politics.
This is not only making a mockery of the reservation of women in Panchayati Raj institutions but also appears to be a hurdle for other deserving women candidates.
Reasons for the emergence of ''sarpanch proxies”:
Resistance due to Social barriers
Poor social status of women
poor level of literacy
confined to domestic spaces
lack financial independence
Lack of skills: Lack of efforts for women’s capacity building, training, or inculcating confidence
Failure of government to act appropriately against such malpractice and blatant misuse of power.
Additional work is needed on the capacity building of women in matters of governance. This can be done by:
Raising society’s awareness about women's rights
Sensitizing bureaucracy about the relevance of women's participation at the panchayat level.
Social barriers due to traditional society need to go away.