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Women In Panchayati Raj

Introduction


Panchayati raj institutions are a watershed moment in India's democratic history since they not only percolated democratic decentralization to the grassroots level but also took a big step forward in women's empowerment by granting them a 33 percent reservation. This decentralization paradigm is characterized by a unique combination of rationalism and tokenism.

However, women's participation in politics and public life in India has remained abysmally low. Though, there is a significant gender disparity in political involvement. Participation of women at the higher level is lower in comparison to their participation at the lower level of governance structure.



Success Stories


Due to patriarchy and the perceived fear of males losing control of the political system, the potential and accomplishments of elected women in PRIs were first overlooked. They were dismissed as proxies for their husbands and other male family members, and sometimes as proxies for village leaders. Their competence to comprehend the governing process and to lead panchayat matters was questioned. However, several female elected officials have made significant contributions to constructive change in their communities. There are various success examples.

In Dhani Miyan Khan GP in Haryana, a woman Sarpanch established a training center for women and guaranteed that every child in the village attended school. Her community received several honors under her leadership for its superior sanitation, 0% dropout rate, and the best sex ratio among all villages in Haryana.


Pattnaik examined the operation of EWRs in a variety of panchayats and concluded that women's leadership in panchayats is reshaping India. These elected women—who have become role models for other women in their communities—are reshaping the development agenda to address crucial village concerns. There are millions of success tales. Women throughout India—from Orissa to Assam to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar—are ensuring that roads are maintained, power is provided to their villages, schools are constructed, sanitation is ensured, medical services are made available , safe drinking water, and local savings organisations are organised. Though All of these success stories of elected women representatives of PRIs do not mean that all obstacles have been removed.


Challenges


  • Patriarchy: With the exception of a few tribal groups, notably in the northeast, Indian society, in general, remains patriarchal. Numerous EWRs continue to serve as rubber stamps for their family members and as proxy for rural elites at times. Male coworkers demonstrate insensitivity and a refusal to collaborate. Their functioning is harmed by the burden of home chores, the purdah (veil) system, and domestic violence.


  • Lack of Cooperation from Sectoral Departments: EWRs, particularly the first timers find it very difficult to deal with officials of block/district administration and of line/ sectoral departments. Bureaucratic indifference and corruption are widespread, leaving many EWRs demotivated and unhappy with panchayati raj. The public's expectation of delivery, combined with the administration's unwillingness to cooperate, frustrates these EWRs to the point that they often refuse to run for the next term.


  • Inadequate Capacity: The majority of EWRs are new to public life and lack the necessary expertise and skills to manage panchayat affairs. Government-sponsored training programmes are unable to reach all elected representatives in a timely manner. Many ward members do not have the chance to attend any training throughout their time. At times they are also not allowed by their family members to travel and stay alone during\sthe residential trainings. EWRs are also constrained by a lack of education. However, a few states, like as Rajasthan and Haryana, have imposed educational standards that have resulted in the recruitment of educated women and girls to Panchayats who are quick learners and capable of functioning well.


  • Rotation of Terms: The policy of reservation for only one term and rotation of reserved seats and positions of chairperson also impedes the consolidation of leadership qualities among EWRs because it takes time for them to learn the skills of dealing with and negotiating various conflicting interests within the panchayat. Their term is finished by the time they gain these skills and begin to perform successfully. Dereservation of seats and offices of chairpersons is identified as the primary cause for their failure to be elected to PRIs by EWRs. So far, only five states, namely Chattisgarh, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, and Karnataka, have created provisions for two-term seats and chairman reservations.


Way Forward

  • As a result, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj has taken a number of steps to resolve these issues. Steps are taken nationwide to enable the smooth operation of Elected Women Representatives, such as the creation of women-friendly infrastructure, such as panchayat ghars or panchayat offices with women-only restrooms.

  • Similarly, in numerous Panchayats, efforts are being made to build teams comprised of computer literate individuals, accountants, and junior level engineers to help elected women in carrying out their tasks.


  • Capacity-building and awareness programs not just for elected representatives, but also for government bureaucrats working for Panchayati Raj Institutions at the village, block, and district levels. These training prepare delegates to be completely conversant with laws, acts, and regulations.


  • Male elected representatives, PRI officials, and EWR spouses must participate in a gender sensitization program.

  • They are taught and made aware about how Gram Panchayat Development Plans are created and how national and state funding are distributed to local governments. The training sessions have also made the representatives more diligent in ensuring that no resources are wasted, judicious use must be ensured.


  • It has also created model guidelines and manuals for preparing Gram Panchayat Development Plans. These manuals assist Elected Women Representatives in prioritizing their objectives and developing village development plans appropriately.

  • Convergence of SHGs with PRIs, especially with village-level Panchayats, must be sought aggressively.


Conclusion


To summarise, the reservation for women in PRIs established by the 73rd CAA, as well as later increases in quota by states, have resulted in an unusually large number of women in India's governance arena. Such political empowerment for women is among the finest in the world. A quarter-century has elapsed since the aforementioned Act went into effect, and most states now have fourth or fifth-generation Panchayats in operation.


Women leadership in Panchayats which started with a shaky beginning has definite signals of getting well established and recognized. However, EWRs have yet to reach their full potential due to various other problems such as patriarchy, insufficient capabilities and self-confidence, term rotation, and so on. The Government of India and state governments are working hard to enhance EWRs via different programs such as capacity development, developing EWR networks, SHGs-PRI convergence, and so on.


Much more has to be done in the future to strengthen the hands of EWRs. Among these are nationwide 50% reservations, rotation of terms only after a minimum of two terms, timely induction and refresher training, exposure visits, mentoring, and handholding of EWRs in PRIs. With various governmental and non-governmental initiatives, it is certain that EWRs in PRIs will do their best to contribute to the national goals of Samriddha Bharat (prosperous India) and Sashakta Bharat (empowered India), as well as the seventeen global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to which India has committed.

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